HEALTH Minister James Reilly has vowed to get tough with private health insurers, who owe hospitals a staggering €230m in fees.
The HSE has lifted the lid on the massive sum owed for the treatment of private patients.
Figures seen by the Irish Independent show that hospitals are owed millions more than previously disclosed.
In response to a question by Labour TD Ciara Conway, the HSE said that the amount owed to hospitals at the end of November amounted to €150m.
But the HSE confirmed that a further €80m in fees will be owed when hospitals submit a tranche of paperwork relating to patients who have received treatment in recent months.
This sum relates to claims that are currently under preparation but have not yet been submitted by individual hospitals.
Addressing the Oireachtas Health Committee, Dr Reilly said he is very aware of the issue of "delayed payments" by insurers and that he intends to "take them to task" over it.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Ms Conway said the public is entitled to expect this money will be collected.
"This is not an insignificant sum in the slightest. It is money that will go to the public purse and be used in our hospitals at a time where they are badly in need of funding," she said.
"It's clear to me that insurers are stalling here and it's vital we get tougher with them.
"I am satisfied, following a briefing from the HSE's new chief financial officer Thomas Byrne, that this matter is being taken very seriously."
The HSE said that a number of measures are being pursued.
These steps include:
* Dedicated management: The chief financial officer (CFO) has led a focused team to improve the submission of claims.
* Implementation of electronic claiming system: Over the past 18 months, the HSE has introduced an electronic claims system in 21 of its largest hospitals representing 72pc of the overall monetary value of national claims. This improved system will be rolled out to all acute hospitals this year.
* Co-operation of hospital consultants: Hospital management and consultants are working to improve the process for completion of forms in hospitals.
"On a weekly basis hospital management review the level of private insurance claims yet to be submitted and work in close partnership with hospital staff and consultants to mitigate any unnecessary delays," a spokesperson said.