Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Questions (100)

Brendan Smith


100. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Health the timeframe for the introduction of universal health insurance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30445/13]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The Government is embarking on a major reform programme for the health system, the aim of which is to deliver a single-tier health service, supported by universal health insurance (UHI), where access is based on need, not on income. Under UHI, everyone will be insured and will have equal access to a standard package of primary and acute hospital services, including acute mental health services. A new Insurance Fund will subsidise or pay insurance premiums for those who qualify for a subsidy.

Earlier this year, in February, I published The Path to Universal Healthcare, a preliminary document on UHI which provides a comprehensive update on progress achieved to date in paving the way for the introduction of universal health insurance and sets out the main actions for the road ahead. It is available on the Department's website, www.doh.ie.

The Department is currently in the process of preparing a White Paper on Universal Health Insurance which will provide detail on the UHI model for Ireland in addition to the estimated costs and financing mechanisms associated with the introduction of universal health insurance. Broadly, this involves the development of detailed policy proposals covering issues such as the design of the UHI model, the scope and composition of the UHI basket of services and funding and financial support mechanisms for UHI. Work on the development of detailed policy proposals is proceeding with a view to publishing the White Paper as early as possible.

The health reform programme is a major undertaking that requires careful planning and sequencing over a number of years and full implementation of UHI will take some time to achieve. I anticipate that by 2016 the necessary groundwork will be in place to enable us to phase in implementation of UHI, as promised in the Programme for Government. I should add that it is my intention to consult widely as part of the reform implementation process.