Journal Article

Insurance status and waiting times for hospital-based services in Ireland

July 11, 2020

Health Policy

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In Ireland long waits for public hospital services are a feature of the healthcare system, with limited evidence that waits for private hospital services (delivered in both public and private hospitals) are shorter. In 2008, in an attempt to ensure more equitable access to hospital-based services, a ‘common waiting list’ for all patients within public hospitals was proposed. The aim of this paper is to analyse waiting times in Ireland for hospital services for patients with and without private health insurance (PHI) and to examine whether the 2008 reform reduced the differential in waiting. The analysis used data from the 2007 and 2010 health module of the Quarterly National Household survey (QNHS). The impact of insurance status on waiting times was analysed for the period before and after the reforms. A higher proportion of those without PHI were waiting more than three months for hospital services relative to those with PHI. There was no evidence that the 2008 reforms reduced the differential. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the proposals were not fully implemented, although expansion of capacity for private patients’ treatment in private hospitals is a possible confounding factor.