Health costs and hospital beds

Wed, Jun 19, 2013, 00:12

Sir, – Private patients in public beds are to be charged €1,112 per night in place of the existing charge of €75 (Front page, June 16th). Insurers say this will cause them to increase their charges by 30 per cent. Minister for Health, James Reilly responds that insurers are not doing “near enough” to reduce costs.

He may be right, but I would struggle to think of a person who is less justified in making the point. The one constant in the troika reports is the abject failure of the same Minister to meet his budgets. His most recent wheeze to be seen to be doing something is to offer staff under his charge more than €30,000 not to work for three years.

Mr Reilly contends that it is neither fair, reasonable nor acceptable for private patients to be subsidised in the public health system. I wonder.

Those who choose to buy private health insurance are in all probability paying income tax. They are, therefore, paying to subsidise those who receive for €75 a service the economic cost of which is, apparently, €1,122.

People who choose to buy health insurance are currently paying a second time. Their taxes pay the costs of public accommodation and their insurance premiums pay for a private room. They pay for both and may use either.

Under the new regime they will pay a third time through higher insurance costs. They are now asked to pay once for private accommodation (as they currently do) and twice for staying in a public ward (through their taxes and the additional insurance charges).

This strikes me as being neither fair nor reasonable and it is hardly acceptable.

Mr Reilly is taking the time-honoured approach of Ministers who will not tackle costs which are out of control. Let’s charge the punter more.

I will leave for another day the question as to whether €1,122 is indeed the economic cost of a night in a single-bed room in one of our hospitals. I would merely note that, as I write, I could have a room in the Merrion Hotel for €230, a room in the Ritz Carlton for €250 or a suite in the Four Seasons for €570. – Yours, etc,

PAT O’BRIEN,

Temple Villas,

Rathmines, Dublin 6.

Sir, – Health insurance charges to rise (Front page, June 16th), more people to go on public health service, waiting times to get longer! The Minister for Health’s contribution to Father’s Day – especially for the pensioners. Roll on the next MRBI poll . – Yours, etc,

DAVID MURNANE,

Dunshaughlin, Co Meath.