Men forced to pay for pregnancy insurance
MEN can't have babies but this does not mean that they can avoid being insured for giving birth when they take out health cover.
It has emerged that maternity cover is included in everyone's health insurance. This means more than one million men are paying for something that they will never get to use.
And it is not possible for a man to ask for a private health policy that does not come with maternity cover.
The law states that all private medical insurance policies have to include maternity cover as part of their offering, whether the person being insured is a child, a man, a young woman of child-bearing age, or a woman in her 90s.
This is despite the fact that males will never give birth -- and, even for women who do have babies, the maternity cover will account for only part of the cost.
There can be a shortfall of up to €4,500 if they have their child privately.
Even a three-day stay in a public hospital will mean making a payment of €880 to the consultant, said Dermot Goode of www.healthinsurancesavings.ie.
However, if a woman goes privately the consultant's fee can vary from €2,500 to €4,500.
And you have to be insured for 12 months before maternity benefits kick in.
A spokeswomen for the VHI explained why men end up being insured for having a baby. "Maternity benefits are considered to be a minimum benefit and it is stipulated in the legislation that every health insurance policy must include minimum maternity benefits.
"There are no products available on the Irish market that exclude maternity cover."
Mr Goode said the 1994 Health Insurance Act stipulated that insurers have to cover everyone for such things as maternity benefits, at least 100 days of psychiatric treatment, cover for a semi-private bed in a public hospital, and convalescence cover.
Mr Goode added that it was reminiscent of the scene from the Monty Python film, 'The Life of Brian', where there is a discussion about fighting for a man's right to have babies, even though for men such a thing is impossible.
"It is symbolic of our struggle against oppression," one of the characters says.
Head of the regulatory body, the Health Insurance Authority, Liam Sloyan, said his office had started to get complaints from both men and women about having to pay for maternity when they either can't or have no intention of getting pregnant.
He explained that prostate procedures, which only affect men, are covered on all policies.
"The idea is that all healthcare costs are shared equally among all the population who have health insurance," he said.