A new report on 'Health Inequalities in Europe' finds that Ireland's two-tiered health system may contribute to disparities between high and low income earners when accessing healthcare.
EU study highlights healthcare inequalities in Ireland
The report says people in the so-called "twilight zone", with incomes above the medical card threshold but without private health insurance, could be losing out most.
Health Inequalities in Europe: Setting the Stage for Progressive Policy Actionconfirms that Ireland remains unique in the EU as the only Western European country not to have universal health coverage of primary care.
This is despite government commitments made since 2011 and reiterated as a core vision of Sláintecare in 2016.
The report is published by TASC, the Think-tank for Action on Social Change, and FEPS, the Foundation for European Progressive Studies.
It will form the evidential backbone of an international conference on Health Inequalities in Ireland: The Role of Policy, taking place at The Long Room Hub, Trinity College Dublin, today.
Ireland's life expectancy at 81.5 years is one of the highest in the EU. The report also shows that people in Ireland have the best self-reported health in the EU.
However, relative to other Western European countries, there is a high level of disparity between high and low-income groups of 21.5%.
Ireland is also unusual in a Western European context in the proportion of health funding that derives from out-of-pocket payments or voluntary health insurance.
Out-of-pocket payments often stop people seeking preventative and necessary healthcare which can often result in more serious conditions and more expense at a later point.