Tuesday 24 October 2017

Health: Both public and private will feel pain of cutbacks

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

PUBLIC and private patients will both feel the brunt of the €746m cuts in health spending next year, although much of the pain was disguised in yesterday's Budget.

The gross allocation to the health service was put at €14.1bn, a fall of 4pc.

But €19m is being taken from this to help pay for extra medical cards and pensions for retiring health workers.

The most obvious impact will be felt by people with private health insurance.

The HSE is charging health insurance companies an additional €93m over two years for private beds in public hospitals.

This will see insurance companies fork out €1,017 a night for a private bed in a public hospital, up from €910. Much of this extra cost could be passed on by firms to the consumer.

People were spared additional A&E charges -- staying at €100 -- and the monthly limit that private patients with expensive drugs' bills pay has been left at €120.

The Government also agreed a new price deal with drug companies which Health Minister Mary Harney said would save €200m.

The fees paid to GPs in the medical-card scheme will be reduced and more cuts are planned for pharmacists.

However, it was suggested the HSE can make savings of €200m in getting better value for the goods it buys and also through cuts in overtime, and that another €43m could be spared in "administrative and other savings". The implication is that these will not affect frontline services.

But much of these savings are aspirational and past experience shows they are rarely realised in full.

The Fair Deal nursing home scheme is to get another €6m next year and home-care packages will receive an extra €8m.This will create another 500 home-care packages with 13,800 benefiting next year.

Other areas getting a rise include disability (€10m), cancer (€8m) and suicide (€1m). There will be €9m to implement the recommendations of the Ryan Report for child protection.

Irish Independent

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