Shared healthcare scheme cannot be casualty of Brexit

Senator Mark Wall
10 March 2021

Speaking at the Seanad Special Select Committee on the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union this week, Labour spokesperson on defence Senator Mark Wall, called for the recently agreed Northern Ireland Planned Healthcare Scheme to be put on a permanent statutory footing.

The Scheme, which came into place in January of this year to replace the EU cross border health directive, has only a 12-month life span and is currently due to end in December of this year.

Senator Wall said:

“The Northern Ireland Planned Healthcare Scheme is hugely important to facilitate access to public healthcare. This is vitally important for workers on lower income. During the Committee, the Department of Health and the HSE confirmed to me that the vast majority of people using the scheme are from lower socio-economic backgrounds, and in most cases, were borrowing the money to avail of the scheme from families or their local credit union.

“The Committee also heard testimony again from representatives of PDFORRA about their PMAS health scheme which avails of the Planned Healthcare Scheme. For a fee of €1 per week, members are protected should injury or illness occur, with PDFORA paying for this in the first instance and then later reclaim the monies from the HSE and Department. This eliminates the need of members to borrow money from families, credit unions or any other outlet.

“Over 250 members of the Defence Forces have availed of this scheme, allowing them to return to work. The PDFORA testimonies highlight that by having a comprehensive health scheme in place, the Force can retain members. Where once members may have retired due to injury, the PDFORA healthcare scheme not only gets these members back on their feet, but also promotes the continuation of their natural military career, with many examples of where those who have availed of the scheme go on to promotion through the ranks.

“These powerful testimonies highlight the importance of such a shared healthcare scheme, acknowledged by HSE and Department representatives as a “brilliant” scheme. That’s why I’m calling for a common sense approach to this shared healthcare system to avoid it becoming another victim of Brexit.

“As we battle longer waiting lists, Government must move immediately to put this scheme on a permanent legal footing. It has made a difference to so many, and particularly those from lower incomes who need it most. Many of those who have availed of the scheme would still be waiting for that procedure here, given the continuing problems we have with waiting lists and our health system in general.”

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