Wednesday 23 October 2019

Health insurance boss warns on public hospitals

Jim Dowdall of Irish Life Health
Jim Dowdall of Irish Life Health

Fearghal O'Connor

The head of one of the country's main health insurance providers has criticised public hospitals for "harassing" patients with private health insurance because they view them as "revenue-raising" opportunities.

Irish Life Health boss Jim Dowdall told the Sunday Independent that insurers must raise prices because patients are being asked to sign waivers giving up their right to be treated under the public health system. "That has been the single biggest driver of health insurance increases over recent years," he said.

Dowdall warned his customers attending public hospitals to only sign a waiver if given additional services, such as a private room.

"We have seen cases in different hospitals where people have been harassed throughout the night to continuously try to get them to sign forms.

"People are being sent forms after they've been discharged looking for a signature so the hospital can actually charge for services that weren't provided," he said. A change in regulations in 2014 was supposed to see the practice raise €30m to €45m a year but that has risen to €150m, he said.

He also outlined how he would like to use technology to track customers' activity levels so as to provide them with discounts for hitting targets. Step counters and other technology could be used to help tackle a growing obesity epidemic among younger people, said Dowdall.

Full interview: Dowdall's healthy vision for Irish Life

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