Health

Sunday 21 September 2014

It's protection money, but at my age I am too scared not to pay it. . .

This is fast becoming no country for old men, says Derek Davis

So Mount Carmel is soon to be no more unless someone with deep pockets and a philanthropic nature steps in, or the State sees the advantage of keeping a team of skilled medical people and good hospital beds in the system.

Of course it won't happen because we live in a post-troika era where balancing the books is the priority for every department. If you think it is no loss to the HSE and its clients, remember that Mount Carmel conducted thousands of procedures for the HSE to help shorten the outrageous waiting lists.

It is clear that the private hospitals are in trouble because so many people are letting their insurance lapse. Some of this is due to our difficult economic situation as the Government leaves less and less disposable income, and some of it is down to the insurance companies who, like the energy providers, have a bewildering range of 'plans', designed, one suspects, to bamboozle the unwary.

This creates a 'sod 'em' attitude amongst their customers, especially old coves like me who are running out of cash and patience.

Will I be letting my insurance lapse as my pension is whittled away? No.

The reason is fear. That health insurance is protection money and we know from a thousand movies what happens when we don't pay our protection – bad things!

Show me the pensioner who asserts, 'I've never been sick a day in my life' and I will show you someone who hasn't had a check-up recently.

We are a bit like old cars – as the years go by we need a bit more maintenance, and if we let a small problem go unattended, it can rapidly become much more serious.

Waiting lists cripple and kill. With Mount Carmel closing, those lists will get longer, and it is my experience that the older one gets the further down the list one ends up.

The way to get the treatment you need to get the attention necessary to sustain life, or the quality of a life free from pain, is insurance, and a bit more than basic cover, too.

The great snag is that as more and more young, fit people bail out of the system, there are more claims and less cash to pay them – you can complete the equation yourself.

It was as if there was no joined-up thinking in government departments. Why do the French, who have a superb system, managing with, per capita, half the number of 'managers'? It is a fact that rich French people pay more tax than rich Irish people and no one bothers with private insurance because there are no waiting lists.

A few years ago on a trip to Normandy, a pal in his 60s had a severe shoulder pain.

He was seen right away by the local GP. The doctor conducted a check-up lasting 45 minutes which included two ECGs. The bill was €32 and the prescription for painkillers €2.40.

This is rapidly becoming no country for old men. We are down the triage list and running out of the cash to pay our protection money. Bad things will happen.

Irish Independent

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