Reilly postpones private patient charges
Change in price to insurance firms for use of public hospital beds held off until 2014
Minister for Health James Reilly said it was “neither fair, reasonable nor acceptable” for private patients to be subsidised in the public health system. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
The Government is to defer the implementation of controversial new charges for private patients in public hospitals until the beginning of next year.
Minister for Health James Reilly announced the changes last night in amendments to new health legislation, following talks with health insurance companies.
He said that from the beginning of 2014 the daily charge for overnight inpatient services in a single-occupancy room in a “category I” public hospital (the main teaching hospitals) will be set at €1,000.
The daily charge for overnight inpatient services in a multiple-occupancy room in a category I hospital will be €813.
The daily charge for day-case inpatient services in a category I hospital where overnight accommodation is not provided will be €407.
These charges will be less than those currently applying. However, they will have to be paid in respect of all private patients treated in public hospitals and not just those in specifically designated beds for fee-paying patients.
The Minister said the measures would generate €30 million next year.
To address any potential shortfall in income for this year as a result of the deferral of the implementation date, health service sources said the agreement with insurers provided for “accelerated payments” – an advance – of €100 million in 2013.
Dr Reilly has strongly defended the new system of charges on the basis that private health insurers enjoyed a significant subsidy at the expense of the public hospital system.
At present, 20 per cent of beds in public hospitals are designated for private use, and insurers pay the full cost of using these beds. However, large numbers are accommodated in public beds outside of this allocation, at a charge of €75.
The Minister’s reforms have been criticised by the Opposition, while insurance firms warned the cost of cover would increase as a result of the move.
Insurers warned last month the Government’s moves could push up the cost of insurance subscriptions by 30 per cent.
The Minister rejected these claims as “scaremongering”.
Dr Reilly said it was “neither fair, reasonable nor acceptable” for private patients to be subsidised in the public health system, and claimed insurers weren’t doing “near enough” to reduce costs.
Speaking earlier this month, Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher said the Minister did not have a mandate to increase charges to fund the health service. He said it would have serious consequences for the health insurance industry.