The Dutch introduced their model of private-public health care, with private insurance companies competing to access public health services in 2006. By 2011 the cost of an ever reducing basket of services had increased by almost 10%, with the cost of unincluded and uncovered services increasing by 50%.
Mr. Dutrée raised the prospect of health care costs in the Netherlands doubling over the subsequent ten or more years, painting a picture of the Dutch people paying at least 25% of their annual income on health care, making the Netherlands the dearest country in the world for access to basic care, even more expensive than the United States of America. Was anyone in Fine Gael or the Labour Party listening? Was the former Minister for Health, Deputy Reilly or the Taoiseach taking any of this on board?
There were countless other voices. Indeed, there was a parade of caution but regrettably, it was clearly a case of "carry on regardless" and what a carry on it has been. Con men and their fellow traveller con artists have fed the Irish public a fallacy over the past five years. The current Minister for Health, Deputy Varadkar has been hedging his bets on universal health insurance since taking over the health portfolio from his Cabinet colleague, Deputy Reilly, but it took the blunt honesty of the ESRI and Dr. Maev-Ann Wren's determination to call it as she saw it, to wrest an acceptance from the Minister that the truth must out. Now we know that the Government's health plan is not viable, never was and never will be.
The Minister, attempting a soft landing for his embarrassed Fine Gael and Labour Party fellow Ministers, has said that he has requested further research on universal health insurance. What of An Taoiseach? Yesterday, in the course of Leader's Questions, the Taoiseach exposed his continuing personal comfort with the universal health insurance multi-player proposition when referring to the ESRI analysis. He reluctantly confirmed, after advising he could argue certain points, that the Government would not proceed with "that model" of universal health insurance. That he is wedded to a form of health insurance as the paying mechanism for health care is beyond question. The Minister for Health, despite his preference for referring to universal health care as distinct from universal health insurance, is as committed to a universal health insurance model as his Taoiseach and political master.
What Ireland and its people need is a system of health care services delivery paid for by fair and progressive taxation, accessible on the basis of medical need - and need alone - which is free at the point of delivery. Sinn Féin is committed to such a system. We are committed to ending the discriminatory and immoral - I emphasise immoral - two-tier system that fast-tracks those who can pay, leaving the less well off to languish on waiting lists, many in pain and all suffering anguish as they wait and wait. A day will yet come when the shared view of the two-tier system of health care services and the piggy-backing of private practice and private access on our publicly funded health services will be one of shame. All political parties, civic society organisations and churches of all denominations should be vocal in their condemnation of what is happening in our health services today. They should all be committed to achieving a single-tier public health system of which we can all be proud. No-one who claims to believe in equality or who claims to be a republican can take any other position.
While I have indicated that my party will support the passage of this Bill, I again urge the Minister to park any further review of universal health insurance and to stick firmly to universal health care and how we can develop that through a fair and progressive taxation system. That is something that all elected opinion should be able to rally behind and collectively ensure the delivery of within the earliest timeframe possible.