Billing vulnerable people on the double is dishonest
The double charging of people with health insurance for using public hospitals has got out of hand. The charging means patients pay twice even if they end up on a hospital trolley.
It is not fair that vulnerable people are having forms thrust at them in hospitals, and asked to waive their rights to be treated as public patients.
And the situation is only getting worse.
We now have reports of people being chased around hospitals by administrators demanding they sign a waiver form allowing the hospital to bill their insurer up to €800 a night for private treatment even though they are not receiving a private bed or accessing a consultant of their choice.
Far from it. In many cases they are stuck on a trolley and the hospitals have the gall to attempt to charge top dollar for this. Patients are being pestered, and this at a time when they are highly vulnerable.
Now it emerges that administrators are demanding the waiver be signed. When they get no satisfaction, they are billing at private treatment rates anyway.
This is a scandal. It is a sneaky subsidy, imposed on those who pay for everything already. It's misleading and amounts to double charging.
Everyone in the State is entitled to use public hospitals. If you do not have a medical card, then you are required to pay €80 a night if you are admitted. Insurers pick up this cost.
Expecting people to pay 10 times that for a service they are not getting - private treatment in a public hospital - is dishonest.
A spokeswoman for Health Minister Simon Harris claims the proportion of patients treated privately in public hospitals has not increased significantly following the introduction of the new charging regime in 2014.
However, people with health insurance were generally not charged for attending public hospitals in the lead up to 2014, unless they got a designated private bed.
The fact remains that charging anyone for a service they are not getting is fraud.