Letter about op ed piece published on 27 June

Posted in Book by saraburke on July 2, 2009

Healthcare system

Thu, Jul 02, 2009

Madam, – Sara Burke (Opinion, June 27th) is right to draw attention to the efforts, some good, some bad, to reform our unfair and expensive health system.

Inequality and rising costs are the two salient features of the Irish health system. But neither has been helped by the serial privatisations that have most characterised the Government’s efforts.

The privatisation frenzy has been accompanied by an average annual increase in health spending of almost 9 per cent since 2002, more than in any other OECD country, except Korea. This increase in cost is as unsustainable in Ireland as it is in the US, where Barack Obama has identified the cost of health care as the single biggest threat to the American economy.

In his recent address to the American Medical Association, Obama referred to the acclaimed New Yorker article of June 1st by Dr Atul Gawande, who laid the blame for overspending on private providers who over-investigate, over-admit and over-treat in order to maximise profit. An unhealthy alliance of medicine and business resulted in “a culture of money” that insurers, both public and private, could do nothing to stop.

Unless the Government gets a grip, Ireland will find itself facing the same problems as McAllen, Texas, suddenly notorious as the most expensive health market in the US, with Medicare expenditure of $15,000 per enrollee per year.

The signs are ominous. The private sector is clamouring for more money. There have been huge hikes in private health insurance premiums. Private hospitals are advertising for customers on the radio. And many of same “geniuses” and “heroes” who featured so conspicuously in recent financial scandals are also heavily involved in the private health industry. All very unappealing.

Meanwhile, the pressure on the public hospital system is increasing. Vhi Healthcare shed 40,000 members in the first quarter of the year. Those people will now turn to the State for their care. So it might be a good time to start redistributing the private sector’s resources for the benefit of the entire community.

Equality is important again. The low-tax, small-government, neo-liberals have had their day. They lost. – Yours, etc,



North Circular Road,



© 2009 The Irish Times

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