Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Questions (634)

Billy Kelleher


634. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health the role he sees for the market in the provision of health care here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9614/13]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The Irish health care system has been based on a mix of public, voluntary non-for-profit and private provision for many years. Part of the debate about the future of our health system overall has been about the most appropriate role for the private sector, and the balance to be drawn between it and the public and voluntary sectors. The Government is committed to the continued development of a mixed health care system in Ireland, drawing on the strengths of all three sectors. That said, we are committed to the development of a single-tier health service, in which the distinction between ‘public’ and ‘private’ patient is removed. We can no longer accept a situation where patients can queue-jump because they can afford to pay for faster access.

Within this context, I believe that the free market has an important role to play, provided that the system is regulated effectively to protect quality and to control costs. For example, private hospitals play an important role in delivering acute services in Ireland, and private companies also deliver community based services, such as home supports for older people. The move to Universal Health Insurance will involve a very important role for the private sector, in which health insurers will compete for business in a manner designed to drive efficiencies and offer customers choice between funders of health care. While the overall approach to reform will be informed by the experience of other countries and best practice the system as a whole will be uniquely Irish. Whatever the precise configuration of services as between public, voluntary and private, and whatever the exact role of a regulated free market within the system, my priority is to ensure that all patients and clients receive the best possible service for the lowest cost, in the setting that is most appropriate to their needs. The reform of our health system will be developed on these principles.