The Sustainability of Ireland’s Health Care System

Ireland’s health care system is a unique mix of a publicly-funded health service and a fee-based private system. The distinctive and complex structure of the sector, which involves both public and private financing and delivery of services, has important implications for the allocation of resources and for sustainability. In addition, though Ireland currently has a relatively young population, it has experienced, and continues to experience, significant population growth. Moreover, the effects of Ireland’s financial crisis, and subsequent economic contraction, had a major impact on the sector. Similarly, Covid-19 has presented a range of additional significant issues.

This research considered the long-term sustainability of Ireland’s health care system, examining a range of determinants. Demand side factors impacting health care expenditure growth include demographic factors, income effects, and chronic disease. Supply side factors include labour costs and pharmaceutical prices, new technologies and drug therapies, and health care provider incentive structures. A further concern is the Covid-19 pandemic, which has required a dramatic health care system response within a very short time period. While there is still a high degree of uncertainty around the full impact and duration of the pandemic, it is likely to have implications for the medium-term sustainability of health care expenditure.

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