PRIVATE hospitals have been accused of “appalling” behaviour after it emerged they are imposing new charges for Covid tests for people before they can attend the hospitals.
The fees being imposed are between €75 for those who have to have a day procedure in a private hospital, to €250 for in-patient procedures.
The new fees are despite the private hospitals benefiting from a controversial deal where they were effectively taken over by the State for three months this year.
Health insurers are currently not covering the new Covid-19 test charge.
People with health insurance have been shocked to learn of the new charge.
Wexford-based Jason Sheridan was told by the Beacon Hospital in Dublin that it was charging €250 for what it called Covid test. Vhi is not covering the cost.
His seven-year-old daughter Clodagh is due to have grommets inserted next week.
Mr Sheridan said the imposition of the charge was “an absolute scandal” particularly as the private hospitals had benefited from the State deal earlier this year.
The details of that deal have not been revealed but it is understood bill for three months could be €338m. Claims were made that the private hospitals ended up being under-utilised.
Chairman of the Consumers Association Michael Kilcoyne said: “It is appalling to impose this charge given that the private hospitals got so much money from the HSE. It shows total disrespect to the taxpayer.”
Health insurance expert Dermot Goode said a number of private hospitals were imposing the new charges.
He said they range from €75 for a day procedure, to between €150 and €250 for in-patient procedures.
Talks have begun between insurers and the private hospitals but there is no agreement on insurers covering the new costs, he said.
A spokesman for the Private Hospitals Association said private hospitals were forced to incur extra costs to meet stringent new public health guidelines, including deep cleaning, the use of PPE and testing patients for Covid before they can be treated.
“The Private Hospitals Association considers that any additional costs that may be incurred by individual private patients as a result of these new measures should in principle be absorbed by the health insurers, and its members are currently in discussion with the respective insurers to that end.”
The spokesman insisted the State deal only covered the costs incurred by the private hospitals for the deal that covered use of the hospitals in April, May and June.
The Beacon, in Dublin, said that in line with national guidelines from the HSE, incoming surgical patients have to be tested for Covid-19 prior to admission to the hospital.
Beacon Hospital said Laya has agreed to cover the cost of the Covid test. The hospital is engaging with Vhi and Irish Life to get them to cover the cost, it said.
Vhi said private healthcare customers are facing economic uncertainty, in the same way as the rest of the population. There is an onus on us all to seek to contain costs where it is possible to do so in order to ensure that private health insurance remains affordable.
Laya said it was in discussion with hospitals to understand all costs related to pre-admission Covid-19 testing for elective procedures with a view to understanding how best we can cover this cost.
“We are currently in discussion with our hospital partners and hope to come to an agreement directly with them shortly,” the Laya spokeswoman said.