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Saturday 30 September 2023 Dublin: 16°C
# State of the Nation
Is this the death of universal health insurance?
Here’s everything you need to know about what’s happening in Irish politics right now…

Updated 12.07pm 

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Everyone’s talking about…

Leo casting doubt on universal health insurance.

shutterstock_91948466 (1) Shutterstock / VILevi Shutterstock / VILevi / VILevi

The proposal that the Irish healthcare system should adopt a universal health insurance (UHI) model was part of Fine Gael’s five point plan, and was trumpeted by former health minister James Reilly when he announced the details back in Spring 2014.

It has been dogged by criticism and questions over its viability since its inception.

After the health portfolio was passed to Leo Varadkar, he didn’t appear to have as much confidence in the plan as Reilly did. He said the timeline was “too ambitious”, and that it would not be possible to have it up and running by 2019.

Instead he has opted to focus on systems of free GP care.

And now this morning it looks like the minister will be adding another nail to UHI’s coffin. He is expected to report back to cabinet after studying a range of independent analysis on the topic, only to find that the introduction of UHI will involve additional costs of more than €650 million. RTÉ News reports.

29/09/2015 Capital Plan. Pictured is Fine Gael Min Leah Farrell / Leah Farrell / /

It would result in costs of more than €2,200 per year for adults and €773 for children.

Fianna Fáil is not impressed this morning. Health spokesperson Billy Kelleher accused Varadkar of sneaking this before cabinet “under the cover of the euphoria” of Ireland’s qualification for Euro 2016 last night:

Deep down they were lying to the public, they were lying to the Dáil on a continual basis because when you strip it all away it was quite evident that they didn’t even believe in their own policies themselves.

Speaking to reporters on his way into cabinet this morning, Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin cautioned that there is no ideal healthcare model.

“All of them are under enormous pressure in terms of the resource demand that is there,” Howlin explained, saying the government will need to look at best international practice and the needs of the Irish people to plan the direction of the health service.

Varadkar writes about that “enormous pressure” this morning on, stressing that if there was an overnight fix, “I would have implemented it on day one”.

The agenda

  • The cabinet will meet at 10.30am, discussing issues ranging the Paris attacks to assigning a second judge to the IBRC inquiry.
  • The Social Democrats will announce the party’s plans for tackling corruption at 11am.
  • The Dáil kicks off with questions for Tánaiste Joan Burton on her social protection portfolio at 2pm.
  • A minute’s silence will be held at 3.15pm, followed by statements on the terror attacks in Paris.
  • Private members business at 7.30pm will hear calls for a national housing emergency to be declared.
  • Minister Michael Noonan will discuss the ins and outs of the Budget at the Finance Committee at 4pm.
  • A range of experts will chat to the Environment Committee at 2pm about policy issues arising from a bill introduced in 2013 that established a cemeteries regulator.

Inside Leinster House

Paul Murphy’s admission that he paid his property tax looks likely to be thrown back in his face in the upcoming election campaign (even if it was because he had to sell his home, as he explained to yesterday). Labour’s Robert Dowds accused the Anti-Austerity Alliance TD of ‘marching people to the top of the hill’ and abandoning them.

What the others are saying

  • Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan is due to announce plans for 310 new school projects, The Irish Times reports.
  • The Irish Daily Mail reports that Alan Kelly has dismissed fears that a two-year rent freeze will result in a mass exodus of landlords from the property market.
  • While IBRC will be discussed at cabinet, ministers are not expecting to come to a decision on how to salvage the inquiry, according to the Irish Independent.
  • Taoiseach Enda Kenny was questioned on the eighth amendment by a woman who was going through security with him at Dublin Airport, The Times (Ireland edition) reports. Kenny told her of how a young boy was able to survive for a year despite missing most of his skull.

In case you missed it

Good day for…

Anyone who campaigned for a Yes vote in the same-sex marriage referendum. The first weddings are taking place today.

Bad day for…

Former health minister James Reilly. Universal health insurance was his idea.

On the Twitter machine

Senator Gerard Craughwell had these thoughts last night after Ireland beat Bosnia Herzegovina to secure our place in the Euros.

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