Minister publishes “The Path to Universal Healthcare: White Paper on Universal Health Insurance”

The Minister for Health, James Reilly, T.D.  has published “The Path to Universal Healthcare: White Paper on Universal Health Insurance”. The objective of the Government’s health reform programme is to deliver a single-tier health service, supported by Universal Health Insurance (UHI), where access is based on need, not ability to pay.

Speaking at the launch Minister Reilly said “the publication of this White Paper is a key further step on the road to implementing Universal Health Insurance. This document sets out in significant detail Government plans around the introduction of Universal Health Insurance. It will lead to the most radical reform of our health services in decades and will result in a fairer, more effective health service. The publication will be followed by extensive consultation around the implementation of UHI and I would welcome the widest possible involvement by the public and by the stakeholders in ensuring that these major changes are put in place in the best possible way for the benefit of all our citizens.”

The White Paper outlines the key elements of the new UHI system and how it will work. The areas covered include:

  • the model of UHI for Ireland, including the design of the new system,
  • the process for determining the future basket of health services, including the package of services that will be covered under UHI, and
  • the funding mechanisms for UHI.

Over the coming twelve months, the Department of Health plans to undertake a major costing exercise to ensure that a full and comprehensive analysis of the estimated costs involved is available. In addition, the Minister is committed to showing demonstrable evidence of lower costs and improved productivity as a result of initiatives to be introduced over the coming years. These include providing community-based models of care, full implementation of an efficient Money Follows the Patient funding system and introduction of value-for-money contracting arrangements with healthcare providers.

The publication of the White Paper also marks the beginning of a major consultation process with a call for submissions from the public and key stakeholders on the overall policy direction. The consultation process will last eight weeks (until Wednesday, 28th May).

 Key elements of the UHI system set out in the White Paper are:

  • everyone will be insured and have a choice of health insurer;
  • everyone will have equal access to a standard package of services, based on need and not on ability to pay;
  • the State will pay or subsidise the cost of UHI premiums for those who qualify;
  • various protections will apply in the case of those purchasing UHI policies, including open enrolment, lifetime cover and community rating;
  • health insurers may not sell insurance that provides faster access to services covered by UHI, and
  • healthcare providers supplying care under UHI may not sell faster access to services covered by UHI.

It is intended that all the necessary legislative and organisational groundwork on UHI will completed within this Government’s term of office and that UHI will roll out on a phased basis with a view to full implementation by 2019.

Further details and the full text of the White Paper are available from