Higher tax, less private health cover in hospital shake-up

The public will have to pay higher taxes to end queue jumping as part of a radical overhaul of the country’s hospitals, a new expert group has warned.

The Government-commissioned report on the removal of private practice in public hospitals also warns of potential health insurance premium rises of up to a third. The radical report, which will cost €650m a year after a decade of uncosted massive investment, was launched yesterday by Dr Donal de Buitléir, who led an expert team.

It comes as public waiting lists consist of 68,807 in need of surgery and a record 564,829 in the queue to see a specialist.

Dr de Buitléir said: “It is difficult to think of any other public service where people are treated more favourably simply because they can pay more for the service.”

The extra taxes would be needed to make up the shortfall of around €500m to hospitals due to loss of private income. Although health insurance premiums may fall in the short term, they could escalate as more people abandon cover.

Around 800,000 people could abandon health insurance if waiting times improved. The plan will also put pressure on the public system as extra investment will be needed to hire specialists to work exclusively for public patients. Central to the success of the plan will be convincing hospital consultants to quit private practice where they earn €140m a year.

However, the report concedes the State would have to effectively buy out this private income with a one-off payment to doctors which has not been costed.

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