HEALTH MINISTER James Reilly has published a strategic framework for the future of the Department of Health, outlining plans that will see free GP care extended to the entire public from 2015, and universal health insurance by 2016.
The ‘Future Health’ document outlines plans where GP and primary care would be free and available to all, with referrals to hospitals only coming from then on – and with hospital treatment also covered by a mandatory level of health insurance.
“Primary care will be available on a universal basis with GP care free at the point of use for the whole population. Where a person needs hospital care, it will be provided by independent hospitals or ‘not for profit’ hospital trusts,” the document outlines.
“An integrated payment system will allow incentives to be effectively aligned across different providers and will encourage collaboration in the provision of quality, continuous care across settings.”
Legislation to offer free GP care is to be published, with the free care delivered on a phased basis, beginning with those with chronic conditions who will be given free access from the middle of next year.
The Department says it will work with the HSE to increase the number of front-line health professionals working in primary care from next year onward, to prepare for universal access by 2015.
On health insurance, the Department said it would introduce a permanent scheme of risk equalisation from early next year – legislation for which is currently before the Dáil – and would end the special legal derogations for VHI by the end of next year.
The universal system will see all health insurers offer a basic minimum and standardised insurance package for customers, with the State stepping in to subside – or cover fully – the cost of the policy, depending on the customer’s ability to pay.
Further details on the health insurance reforms will be contained in a White Paper to be published next year.
The document also outlined plans to extend BreastCheck programmes to women aged between 65 and 69 by 2014, while a national colorectal screening programme for people aged between 60 and 69 is expected by the end of 2015.
Speaking at a press event to announce the plans yesterday, Reilly said he would need a second term in office – extending past the next general election in early 2016 – in order to fully complete the changes.