Concerns raised over private health insurance due to hospital takeover by State

FG TD Colm Brophy says there is ‘no logic’ in paying for insurance during pandemic

Concerns have been raised that private health insurance will be “effectively irrelevant” because of the takeover by the State of private hospitals.

Fine Gael TD Colm Brophy said at the Covid-19 Oireachtas committee meeting, if the State retains Irish hospitals under public control for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic "there is no logic in paying private health insurance".

“Indeed there is even a questionable logic in continuing to pay this year’s private insurance,” he added.

Mr Brophy asked secretary general of the Department of Health Jim Breslin: "Can you reassure people that you're not actually envisaging a situation which effectively amounts to the abolition of private insurance?"

Mr Breslin replied: “No and the health insurers have given a rebate.”

He insisted however that “it is by agreement” and he said “I would not reduce it to an either-or option”.

Speaking at the committee which is investigating the State’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Breslin said “I think there will likely be different options that you could look as we now see where we are and what the fugture might hold.

“It’s not simply do you do the deal that you did the last time, do you continue with that or do you not do the deal.”

Arrangement

The secretary general pointed out that the arrangement between the Department of Health and the 19 private hospitals “is in place for three months and the HSE has the option to expand that for a fourth month and by agreement with the private hospitals for a fifth month.”

“We are now coming up to the end of month two when we will do a review to decide what we will do after month three.”

Earlier Mr Breslin had told committee members that the requirement for the use of private hospital facilities would continue because there could be a further surge.

"We're not a health system endowed with capacity", he told Fianna Fáil health spokesman Stephen Donnelly.

Mr Breslin said earlier that they would have to review the use of private facilities. He said a majority of consultants had signed up for the public system and that private patients would be offered the choice of whether they wished to stay with their private consultant or transfer over to the public system.

Mr Brophy said that based on this "effectively there is no private care in Ireland and for most people than means an end to private insurance".

“Am I correct in understanding that for somebody entering with a new complaint there is no such position” as private insurance.

Mr Breslin said it was not an either or option but it would be reviewed at the end of the month.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is a parliamentary reporter with The Irish Times

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

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