Insurance companies owe €241m to hospitals
CASH-STRAPPED hospitals imposing swingeing cuts are owed a massive €241m by private health insurance companies which are using them as a "free overdraft facility", according to the Health Service Executive (HSE).
The money is due to public hospitals, which are already €62m in the red this year, for treating private patients covered by the insurers.
Public hospitals want to be able to bill the insurers for the €75 a night charge, which both public and private patients pay for an overnight bed.
This charge is included in the overall cost of the patient's care, and therefore would not be a matter of dispute, regardless of what other payments the insurer might want to check.
However, the insurers are holding out on paying this charge until they have calculated the patient's entire bill, hitting the hospitals' cash flow.
"If normal credit terms of 30 days applied and the hospital could submit its bills on the patient's discharge, the debt would be around €42m," the HSE said in a briefing document to the committee.
It said it has argued that the statutory charge which everyone must pay should be treated separately by the insurers.
"Hospitals should be allowed to issue their bill on the day of discharge and should be paid within 30 days, perhaps with a standard retention being deducted by the insurance company.
"This retention would ensure that the necessary additional paperwork could be submitted within the agreed time," the HSE insisted.
It said that even with the assistance of an electronic claims system the claims process is onerous and increasingly prevents hospitals being able to bill quickly or collect income in a reasonable time.