I have serious concerns with the policies that have been advanced by the Minister for Health Dr. James Reilly T.D. which are driving the cost of health insurance upwards. Rather than taking steps to buck the upward trend with regards to the cost of health insurance the Government are in fact bringing forward legislation that is causing the cost of health insurance to soar further.
The average premium for a family of two adults and two children has now doubled in the past three years. Individuals and families alike are under immense pressure at the moment and are struggling to keep their heads over water. Countless people are clinging to their health insurance by the skin of their teeth and any further increases will drive it beyond their reach. In many cases those who have faithfully paid their policies for years will now be devastated to be forced to give them up, without realising any benefit from their years and years of payment.
We are locked in a vicious circle of rising health insurance costs as a direct result of the flawed approach taken by Minister Reilly and this Labour and Fine Gael Government. Firstly the Minister introduced new levies on health policies to compensate for the VHI having a higher concentration of older customers. This policy of risk equalisation has proved disastrous for the health insurance market and has resulted in adults paying an additional, significant charge on their policy. Most recently it has been announced that the Government will be bringing forward legislation to charge all of those with health insurance for using public hospitals. The legislation which is due to be enacted by July 1st will see health insurance policies rocket and will drive health insurance out of the reach of the squeezed middle and into the realm of the well-off only.
Week on week, hundreds and thousands of individuals are dropping their health insurance policies. In the past two years over 200,000 individuals have been forced to drop their policy. The Government must be cognisant that this in turn is placing mammoth pressure on an already choked public healthcare system and is bringing the already troubled system to its knees. We are all aware of the state of our Health care system and the huge backlog for public patients in securing appointments. For each insurance increase more families will rely on our public hospitals and the already overburdened system will flounder further.
It is my belief that Minister Reilly needs to take a step back and consider the impact that his flawed policies are having on middle Ireland. The programme for Government promises to advance free health care for all but the reality is that since his Government have come to power there has been no positive difference and rather the cost of health insurance is rising steadily.
I am calling on the Government to lift the uncertainty with regards to the supports to be put in place for who were reliant on the scrapped mobility allowance and motorised transport scheme. The deadlines for final payments under these now defunct schemes are drawing ever nearer yet there is an ominous silence from the Government with regards to an alternative, replacement scheme.
Those with reduced mobility were dealt a body blow with the announcement in March that these vital schemes are being scrapped. As of July no more payments will issue under these schemes. The abolition of these allowances has a hugely negative impact on the quality of life of recipients and a devastating, isolating effect. With this isolation comes distress, strain and fear which adversely impacts on health and causes further issues. At the moment recipients are uncertain as to their future and essentially in the dark.
Furthermore as no new applications are being accepted under these schemes a huge volume of people have been left with no mobility supports and there is a considerable backlog of people anxiously awaiting some announcement on a replacement scheme.
The Government need to stop pontificating on this issue and bring forward a fully reasoned, logical and fair alternative as a matter of priority. They are not operating in a vacuum, for each day that passes greater fear is imposed on those with reduced mobility. No more delay can be tolerated.
I believe that the Government have utterly failed North Tipperary by failing to create or secure new jobs for the region. Fine Gael and Labour have disappointed the electorate by promising to prioritise job creation during the last General Election but adopting a different approach when in power. I believe that the Government have failed to impact any real change or to draw investors into the region and all we see from them is empty rhetoric and relentless PR spin.
Despite all the pre-election promises by Fine Gael and Labour, since this Government was elected over 2 full years ago not one potential investor was brought to North Tipperary by the IDA, and not one single extra job was created. South Tipperary had a diminished ten extra jobs. North Tipperary has fared worst in the entire country and Government T.D’s must stand up and take responsibility.
The figures from the IDA are quite simply abysmal, disgraceful and disheartening. Tipperary seems to simply be a blot on the map for the IDA and Government. We have effectively been abandoned and forgotten by the IDA, the Government and worst of all by our Government T.D’s. It seems that Tipperary has no clout in Government and our views and needs are being disregarded. Our Government representatives for Tipperary have failed the county and the unemployed. Constituents who find themselves out of work now feel ignored, abandoned, excluded and alone.
During the last election Fine Gael adopted the slogan of ‘Let’s Get Ireland Back to Work’. Little did the electorate realise that apparently Tipperary, in its entirety, was excluded from this promise. Labour’s manifesto stated that the lack of action on jobs has made the crisis in the public finances and in the banks even worse and made lavish promises to prioritise job creation and investment. The reality is that their Government have now sat by passively rather than take pro-active steps to draw jobs into our county. Additionally both parties proposed mammoth jobs funds to stimulate the economy. It seems these promised investments have been disregarded in place of actions plans and empty words. These promises have been disregarded with little thought and no consideration for the impact on the electorate.
Unemployment is the number one crisis in this country. Our young people are leaving our shores in there droves and many will simply never return. Day after day our airports are full of young people leaving in search of work. Many are facing destitution and despair due to lack of employment and are making the hugely difficult decision to flee the country in search of a better life abroad. We see highly skilled graduates, entire families, those burdened with debts or a mortgage that they cannot repay with no options here and no choice but to go.
We need real and tangible action, not another glitzy launch of an action plan to afford Government T.D’s a photo opportunity. These action plans are not worth the paper they are written on unless they deliver real jobs and the reality is that no jobs are being seen in Tipperary.
I welcome the decision by the Commission for Energy Regulation to approve an application to extend a natural gas line to Nenagh. This development is a vital step forward and this gas line will be an invaluable resource for the town that will help reduce production costs and increase the competitiveness of all companies in the region. I would like to extend my sincere congratulations to Arrabawn Co-op for driving this project forward and overcoming all hurdles to bring this project to fruition.
I have been involved in this project for a long period and have been pleased to have been able to assist in highlighting and progressing this important application. I was approached in December of 2011 by Conor Ryan, CEO of Arrabawn Co-Op. After consultation with his Executive it was decided that in order to maintain jobs Arrabawn had to reduce their cost base and in particular their energy costs. With that in mind they commenced corresponding with Bord Gais to see if natural gas line could be secured to their base in Nenagh.
Conor Ryan then approached me and outlined their concerns and their desire to get natural gas. I have been working closely with Arrabawn and Bord Gais on this matter since that time and was able to facilitate the original meeting between representatives from Arrabawn and the CEO of Bord Gais Mr. John Mullins in February of 2012. This was a hugely positive meeting with all parties engaging actively and a realisation from Bord Gais that this gas line would be commercially viable for them whilst benefiting the town. From this meeting significant strides were made in examining the demand and loads needed in the town, undertaking feasibility studies, putting together an application and liaising with Gas Link and the Commission for Energy Regulation. I have been in constant contact with Mr. Denis Cagney, Director of Gas, with the CER and was hugely pleased when word came through that the Nenagh project had been approved.
The next phase will be for the CER and the Anchor Load tenant to agree to contractual obligations as to gas usage. This project will then progress to construction stage and the line will be extended along the route of the N7. This infrastructural works will represent an investment of €8.5 million and it is hoped that construction works will be completed by 2014.
This announcement is due largely to the foresight of the management of Arrabawn Co-Op who realised that the mammoth costs of oil were crippling their business and impeding on their ability to expand and grow. Arrabawn are one of the largest employers in the area with over 300 employees across their three business units. They have identified huge scope for growth and job creation as a result of the opening up of the milk quota system but realised that this was not feasible without cheaper fuel. Since that realisation they have worked tirelessly and explored every avenue in securing a gas line for Nenagh. Their professionalism and competency has been instrumental in bringing this project to its current stage. This announcement will ensure the sustainability of the jobs that they have and will place the company in a positive position to meet the huge demand for food products in light of Food Harvest 2020. I would like to commend Arrabawn’s CEO Conor Ryan and all involved. The announcement this week is due reward for their diligence, hard work and efforts over the past number of years.
This announcement is a new dawn for the town of Nenagh and its surrounds. This line will secure the future of many of the production based companies by drastically reducing their dependence of expensive oil and affording them a second, cheaper option. It strengthens the very viability and positions of these businesses and of the town of Nenagh and will encourage businesses and investment into the area. It protects our jobs and businesses and safeguards them into the future.
I have grave concerns with regards to the huge sums owed to the HSE by private health insurance companies and I am urging the Government to take immediate steps to recoup the amounts owed. Further to a Parliamentary Question laid down it has been confirmed to me that €85 million was owed to the HSE by these companies at the end of December 2012.
The swift payment of this sum could make a real and practical impact on the delivery of health services.
Our health service is being brought to its knees and crippled by cut after devastating cut. Health Services in Tipperary have seen savage cutbacks and the loss of facilities. It is hugely frustrating to learn that this mammoth figure is still outstanding because consultants have not been submitting the required paper work within the agreed period of time. This incompetence is unacceptable. The HSE had a recorded overspend of €360 million last year and is severely cash strapped. Every euro that can be recouped is important and must be fought for, secured and applied towards frontline services.
The Government must take this the very simple step of compelling consultants to return their documentation within the agreed period of 14 days. Recouping the millions owed would make a tangible difference to the finances of the HSE.