Health department in talks on insurance payments 'advance'
THE DEPARTMENT of Health is in talks with private health insurance companies on a plan which could generate up to €80 million in payments for the HSE.
Highly placed sources yesterday described the money as “an advance” on payments due from insurance companies in respect of private patients treated in public hospitals.
The money is separate from the €75 million or so which the Department of Health had anticipated receiving in additional funding this year from health insurers as a result of proposed changes to private bed designation arrangements in public hospitals.
Industry sources said yesterday that in return for the deal on the “advance” of money owed, insurers would be asking the Department of Health to look again at the practicalities of implementing the proposed bed designation changes.
The Government announced late last year that it planned to abolish the existing system of designated private-public beds in public hospitals. This would allow public hospitals to raise charges in respect of all private patients treated in their facilities.
About 20 per cent of beds in public hospitals are designated for fee-paying patients, generating annually €350 million from insurance companies. However, not all private patients can be accommodated in these beds. Sometimes they are already occupied or they may be in use for infection control or other purposes. In such cases, private patients have not been charged by the hospitals up to now, although the medical consultants concerned have been paid by the insurance company.
The Comptroller and Auditor General has estimated that charges are not raised in respect of about half of all private patients.
However, the largest health insurer, the VHI, has warned that introduction of the proposed changes to the bed-designation system, which could cost the industry about €300 million, could force up subscription prices by up to 50 per cent.