Health cover charges to rise by 30%, insurers claim

Government planning to charge private patients the full cost of using public hospital beds

Private patients occupying public beds will be charged up to €1,122 a night in place of the existing charge of €75, under legislation published by the Department of Health yesterday.

Private patients occupying public beds will be charged up to €1,122 a night in place of the existing charge of €75, under legislation published by the Department of Health yesterday.

Sat, Jun 15, 2013, 12:21


Health insurance premiums are set to rise by over 30 per cent by the end of the year on foot of Government plans to charge private patients the full cost of using public hospital beds, insurers said last night.

Private patients occupying public beds will be charged up to €1,122 a night in place of the existing charge of €75, under legislation published by the Department of Health yesterday.

The decision to press ahead with charging private patients the full economic cost of using public beds will force over 300,000 people to give up insurance, leaving just a third of the population with cover by 2015, the four health insurers warned.

Minister for Health James Reilly last night rejected the insurers’ claims, accusing them of “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.


Industry lobbied
The measure was announced in last December’s budget but the industry lobbied hard to have it delayed, or introduced on a phased basis. However, the Government was under pressure from the troika to introduce the change.

The Health (Amendment) Act applies charges to all private inpatient services in public hospitals, increases the €75 charge for all inpatient services in public hospitals to €80 and increases the asset contribution payable by new residents of long-stay residential homes under the Fair Deal scheme from 5 per cent to 7.5 per cent.

The Government hopes to raise €120 million from the combined measures next year. While it had aimed to raise €60 million this year, this is in doubt because of the delay in introducing the legislation.

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 of patients are accommodated in public beds outside of this allocation, for which the current charge of €75 applies.

After the legislation passes, private patients will be levied a charge of €1,122 a night for a single-bed room in any of 25 hospitals. In smaller hospitals, a charge of €911 will apply. In most cases, where patients have private cover, insurers pick up the bill. Charges of up to €860 a night will be levied for “multi-occupancy rooms”. This definition appears to have replaced semi-private cover, which guaranteed rooms contained no more than four beds. For inpatient services where no overnight stay is involved, the daily charge will be €730.

Health insurers
 Insurance Ireland, the health insurance council, which includes the State’s four main health insurers, warned the proposed new bed charges would increase reliance on the public health sector, thereby adding to the exchequer burden.

 

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