FG / Labour’s Faircare means: Privatise the health service!

On the Saturday before the election, Enda Kenny said he couldn’t guarantee that more wards wouldn’t be closed and the next day it became clear why, as Fine Gael announced plans to cut €1.1 billion from the health budget over the next four years.

The truth about Fine Gael’s health policy has been coming out and far from being a bright new future of single-tier healthcare, it’s turning out to be more slash and burn of the public health system and the letting loose of the private-for-profit vultures on what remains.

From the outset, this new Fine Gael / Labour coalition has spoken in grandiose terms about its programme, especially in the area of health. But they’ve quietly admitted they’re continuing the outgoing government’s four year plan of merciless austerity.

With James Reilly installed as Minister for Health, it looks certain that all the “negotiating” he boasted about doing with big foreign health insurance companies will result in an attempt at full-scale hand-over of the health service to these profit-merchants by the back door.

Fine Gael’s “Faircare” strategy is based on the troubled Dutch health system. Over 50% of Dutch hospitals are verging on bankruptcy, and nearly half a million citizens are uninsured or defaulting on their health insurance payments. This means there is now a third tier added to an already two-tier system of basic and supplementary health insurance packages.

How did Fine Gael decide that the Dutch system was so wonderful? Because they relied on reports produced by two right-wing, pro-privatisation groups who receive funding from a lobbying company with close links to multi-national pharmaceutical companies, private health insurance companies and private health care providers, all of whom would be interested in exploiting the new Universal Health Insurance system that Fine Gael propose to implement.

Since the Dutch introduced Universal Health Insurance (UHI) in 2006, 41% of Dutch people say that the quality of the health system has worsened, as against only 8% indicating that it had improved. And bureaucracy has mushroomed with the necessity to negotiate and implement 30,000 Diagnosis Treatment Combinations (DBCs) between private health insurance companies and individual hospitals.

In Ireland last year, 65,000 people dropped out of private health insurance as they could no longer afford it. Yet UHI means everyone will be forced to buy private health insurance with subsidies only for lower income groups. The UHI basic package in the Netherlands costs on average €1,194 per person for this year. On top of that employers deduct a further 6.9% of a worker’s income up to a ceiling (€2,233 in 2009). Since the introduction of Universal Health Insurance in 2006, premium costs have risen by 41% and could double from the current rates by 2014.

For the thousands of people who don’t have medical cards but are not rich enough to afford private health insurance, UHI is going to be just another massive stealth tax – and we already pay for the health system through taxation. The Socialist Party argues for a single-tier democratically-run public health system funded by progressive taxation and free at the point of use as the most efficient, rational way forward.

Article based on  research conducted by Dominic Haugh, Socialist Party member, Limerick.

Download at: macliam.org/Health/AnalysisFineGaelFaircare.pdf