Friday 24 May 2019

People power overcomes attempt to get patients to pay on double for hospital treatment

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

People power has delivered a huge victory, undermining an underhand attempt by the Government to charge those with health insurance on the double.

Insured consumers have begun to realise that they do not need to sign forms allowing public hospitals to charge them for public treatment in State hospitals.

Public hospitals have been accused of double charging, as those receiving treatment as public patients are asked to sign forms entitling hospitals to charge their insurer even though they are receiving the same treatment as those without cover.

Now that consumers have wised-up, VHI and Irish Life Health have cut their prices.

Last week VHI said is to cut its prices for the third time in less than a year. It came after it reported a 33pc jump in profits.

The insurer will reduce premiums by an average of 2pc in July on 54 plans, a move that will save a typical family €50.

And those who have already renewed will get the benefit of the summer price cut - something not seen in the market before.

The State-owned insurer has already reduced the cost of some plans last November, and again in March. Irish Life Health says it will be reducing health insurance premiums by an average of 2.4pc on all of its plans with effect from June 12 next.

The cuts should see the cost of plans for adults drop by €53 a year on average.

This price reductions mean that a family of four on Irish Life Health Select Plus will save up to €225 on their plan, the company said. This is the second price reduction announced by Irish Life Health this year.

Consumers have seen through the sneaky hospital tax introduced by then Health Minister James Reilly in 2014, something they have been repeatedly advised to do by this journalist. Everyone is entitled to be treated in a public hospital. The service is free for those with a medical card, and at a low cost for the rest. But Reilly introduced a measure that helped, unfairly, to boost the funding of public hospitals to the detriment of those with health insurance. He allowed hospitals to ask people to sign waiver forms, giving up their right to be treated as public patients. Often intense pressure is put on patients, at a time when they are vulnerable, to sign these forms.

The result was hospitals charging insurers up to €1,000 a night. The cost was passed on to insurers, which pushed up premiums. There is no evidence of patients getting priority care after signing these forms.

Now that people have cottoned on to the unfair measure, cover costs are coming down. The campaign to expose the Government's double charging has worked.

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