Trends in Irish Health Spending

Key Point

Current health spending in Ireland was €19.1 billion or 11.7 % of Gross National Income (GNI) in 2014. This was an increase of €372m over the previous year, but the share of GNI spent fell from 12.3% in 20131. Irish expenditure on health appears relatively high by EU standards given the age structure of our population.

Financing Health

The System of Health Accounts2 provides information on health spending in Ireland. Table 1 shows the breakdown of current spending on health in 2014.

Table 1 – Health Financing in 2013 and 2014

Financed by-page-001

(Source: CSO)

Current health spending in Ireland in 2014 was €19.1 billion or 11.7 % of Gross National Income (GNI). The Government funded 69 percent of this amount with the rest coming from household out-of-pocket payments (15 percent) and voluntary health care payments (15 percent).

Voluntary health care payments are mainly payments to voluntary health insurance schemes (private insurance). In 2014, 83 percent of voluntary health care payments were related to voluntary health insurance schemes. The residual was made up of other voluntary payments (17%), which come from fund-raising, amongst other sources.

Health Expenditure

Spending on health peaked in Ireland in 2009 at 12.5% of GNI (17% above the OECD average in GDP terms). Current spending decreased by €643m (3.6%) in the years 2009 to 2011.

Total current spending increased by €1.3 billion (7.3%) between 2009 and 2014. During the same period, public expenditure on health fell by €483m (3.5%), while private expenditure increased by €1.8bn (44%).

Figure 1 illustrates current health spending from 2004 to 2014, split between public and private.

Figure 1

290616 2-page-001

(Source: CSO *Note: rounding may effect totals)

Public spending has increased by 49 per cent over the period by €4.4 billion, and private spending has increased by 147 per cent by €3.5 billion. The change in the percentage share of public and private spending on health from 2004 to 2014 is shown in table 2.

Table 2 – Public and Private Health Expenditure, as a % of Total Heath Expenditure

290616 3-page-001 (2)
(Source: CSO)

The share of public expenditure on health from 2004 to 2014 averaged 76.2 percent of total expenditure. Private expenditure has increased its share by 46% over the period, while public expenditure’s share fell by 12%. Since 2008 the share of private spending has risen by 10 percentage points. The change in public and private shares of health expenditure as a percentage of GNI is shown in figure 2.

Figure 2

290616 4-page-001

(Source: CSO)


International Comparisons

Average health spending in OECD countries is 9% of GDP (compared with 11.7% of GNI in Ireland). Public spending in Ireland is falling as a share of GNI in recent years. Health spending in Ireland appears to be relatively high by international standards given current age demographics. Ireland has the largest share of young people (0-14 years) in the EU 28 at 22% of the total population, and the lowest share of those aged 65 years and over at 13%.




1 GNI at current market prices rose by 7% in 2014.

2 Data is taken from Table 7 of the System of Health Accounts published by the CSO (2014 is latest year available)


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