Grandiose promises of ‘better and cheaper’ single-tier health care system are a sham

Responding to the government’s white paper advocating universal health insurance, Conor Mac Liam, husband of Susie Long and Anti Austerity Alliance candidate in the upcoming local elections in Kilkenny said:

Minister Reilly’s White Paper on Universal Health Insurance in fact promises a future 3-tier system as exists in the Netherlands upon which his proposals are based –

Tier 1: half a million Dutch people are not paying or are defaulting on their insurance payments

Tier 2: those on the basic package

Tier 3: those who can afford top-up insurance over and above the basic package

Whilst promising that everyone will be equal as regards waiting lists, this will be of no benefit if everyone is waiting longer, again as has been shown as a developing problem in the Dutch system.

The competing insurers system is not a better system as it puts the health system in hands of the very insurance companies about whom Minister Reilly complained in the Dáil on April 1st as providing ever costlier premiums. In the Netherlands, with supposedly 15-30 insurance companies, it quickly became an effective cartel of  just 4 companies with 88% market share. Patient switching between companies quickly declined in the first few years from 25% to 3%. And of course premiums rose by 40% while the basic package shrank in terms of the services covered.

I would repeat the call that my late wife [Susie Long] made in 2007 for a ‘patient-centred, first class, public health system’. We need to take the profit motive out of health care, to establish a single-tier public health system funded from progressive taxation, free to all at the point of use. This can be only be achieved if the Government brings an end to its failed austerity policies, stops paying over billions to banks and bondholders, and seriously taxes the super-wealthy and corporations in this country.