Reilly rejects claims levy will see health insurance hikes
Minister says extra charges for private patients in public hospitals will be phased
Minister for Health James Reilly has rejected claims by the health insurance industry that a Government levy will result in significant premium increases.
Dr Reilly said there was "no rationale" for the insurers' claims that subscribers would be driven off cover because of an increase in the levy.
He said there was "one pot of money" involved that went around "in a circle" in the industry. If a company had more older customers it got more of the levy.
Speaking in Dublin today at a healthcare conference, he also rejected claims by insurers that plan to charge private patients for the use of all beds in public hospitals would push up premiums by as much as 25 per cent.
The Minister said he accepted that if this change were introduced overnight it would "break" the industry. For this reason, it would be introduced in a phased manner over three to four years. He said it was "ludicrous" that a public hospital couldn't get paid because of the designation of a particular bed when the consultant was being paid.
Dr Reilly said he had made proposals in Cabinet for increasing fees for off-licences as a way of curbing the consumption of alcohol at home but the Government had decided not to take action as yet.
He said he wanted to introduce a minimum price on alcohol on an all-Ireland basis together with the authorities in Northern Ireland.
His proposal for a tax on added sugar in certain drinks has also not been taken up. But Dr Reilly said it would have to be addressed at some stage because obesity was such as serious problem.
Addressing the conference, Dr Reilly strongly criticised costs at the VHI and in the private health industry generally.
Dr Reilly, who said he was very concerned about costs in the sector, has told the State health insurer he wants more robust auditing to that clinicians are challenged on the cost of procedures.
He also wants a "hard look" at the cost of procedures, he said, given that some that used to take two hours now only take 20 minutes. Hospitals shouldn't be charging by the day but by procedure.
But he said it was unacceptable that public hospitals are not paid for two out of every five private patients they treat.
Dr Reilly said he intended to establish a patient safety agency on an administrative basis this year, modelled on international examples in countries such as Canada.
He said the public needed to be involved and empowered in the protection of their own health. A framework document on this issue would be published in the coming week.
A framework document on the future of small hospitals will also be published inn the next week or so, he said. This would demonstrate that the future of small hospitals was secure and that no hospital would close.