Speaking in the Dáil on the Government’s White Paper on Universal Health Insurance, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD described it as “fundamentally flawed”. He said:
“The model the Government has adopted here is fundamentally flawed. It is a so-called free market model based on competing private-for-profit health insurance companies.
“This is the Fine Gael model, which won out in the Programme for Government. It is a purely market approach, treating healthcare as a commodity and believing that consumers will benefit from competition. But the real beneficiaries will be the private health insurers. They will benefit doubly.
“Firstly, they will have a mass of new customers, forced by Government legislation to take out policies. Secondly, they will benefit directly from Government payments to them on behalf of people who cannot pay private health insurance themselves.
“We often hear the phrase ‘cut out the middle man’. Minister Reilly’s model of universal health insurance is cutting IN the middle man. It is adding to the cost of healthcare because the profit margin of the private health insurance companies will inevitably push up the cost of healthcare.
“We in Sinn Féin say cut OUT the middle man. This can be done by funding public health services from fair and reformed general taxation.
“The Minister’s plan is based on the Dutch model which is not working. It has actually led to the rationing of healthcare and to much greater medical inflation. We believe this plan will cost both the State and the citizens more than a State-provided, taxation-funded system.
“We believe that it will lead to a system where private health insurance companies will ultimately determine what level of health services people will receive. The private health insurance companies will become gate-keepers if this system is adopted and future Governments will be constantly trying to play catch-up with legislation and regulations.
“Sinn Féin wants to see universal public healthcare based on medical need and funded from fair and reformed general taxation. On this basis we will be participating in the consultation and the debate and we will make our own party submission.”