News Charlie Weston

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Latest wheeze to extract more money is almost certain to backfire

Charlie Weston

Published 02/05/2013 | 05:00

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WHY bother paying for health insurance? That will be the reaction of many people.

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And it is all thanks to the mandarins and the minister in the Department of Health.

The latest wheeze to extract money from those with health insurance is to charge anyone who enters a public hospital, and who has insurance, for treatment. This will happen whether they get a public, a private or a semi-private, bed.

Most people will see this as a form of double taxation. You pay your taxes, which entitles you to treatment in a public hospital, if you need it.

Public patients don't get the service entirely free: they have to pay €75 a night, up to a limit of €750. This does not apply if you have a medical card.

But from July, you could have two people in beds beside each other in a public ward in a public hospital, being charged very differently.

Say, for example, John has no health insurance and no medical card. He pays €375 for a five-night stay.

Peter has health cover and his insurer gets billed up to €1,000 a night (the rate charged to insurance companies for the use of public hospitals) and any other consultant and medical costs.

This is a huge extra cost for Peter's health insurer. That is why the cost of his policy will go up by at least 15pc, or around €360 a year for his family's policy – making Peter likely to question the wisdom of keeping his cover.

Dr Reilly and his officials expect to raise €120m in a full year from charging insured patients for using public hospitals. But this plan is likely to backfire as thousands of people, particularly those in their 30s and 40s, could drop their cover. That will throw out Dr Reilly's projected revenues of €120m a year.

Irish Independent

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