Wednesday 18 October 2017

Government must look at the long-term picture

MOVES by the Government to charge health insurers every time someone with medical cover uses a public hospital may help the State's finances in the short term.

When someone presents at an A&E ward, they will be asked if they have health insurance. If they do, the health insurer will be billed for the treatment.

Health Minister James Reilly plans to bring in legislation in the next few months to allow for this change where public hospitals will be able to recoup the costs of treating anyone with health insurance, whether they get a private bed or not.

But in the longer term, it will send health premiums shooting up again. That will lead to a situation where more families will ditch costly health insurance and throw themselves at the mercy of the public health system.

So the Department of Health may get its hoped-for €60m from this exercise, but more people opting out of health insurance will put more pressure on the public system, which will ultimately cost multiples of the €60m expected to be handed over by health insurers.

Already, thousands of people have been forced to stop paying premiums because they can no longer afford it.

And does Dr Reilly really believe that all those who end up in A&E and have health cover will own up to having insurance? This will especially be the case if there is an excess on the policy – an amount the insured person has to pay themselves before the insurer pays up.

Many hard-pressed families trying to keep it all going financially will wonder why it is always middle Ireland that has to take the strain when government sums don't add up.

With rises of 20pc in health premiums last year, health insurance is looking like an endangered species.

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