Health insurers pay €125m to help relieve HSE deficit
Health insurance companies are giving an advance payment of €125m to relieve part of the massive deficit facing the health service.
The €125m is a once-off payment for private patients who have already been treated in cash-strapped public hospitals.
It will help ease some of the over-run faced by the hospitals and the struggling Health Service Executive (HSE) -- which could be €500m in the red at the end of this year.
It emerged last week that around €74m due to public hospitals for treating private patients was outstanding, mainly because consultants had not signed the necessary forms.
In some cases the hospital consultants had not signed off on the invoices for a year -- but the average delay was three months.
The delay in recouping this income has been criticised, especially at a time when the HSE has imposed €130m in cuts -- including slashing spending on home help.
Health Minister James Reilly welcomed the agreement, and said the legal details were now being worked out between the HSE, the voluntary hospitals and the insurers involved -- Aviva Health, Laya Healthcare and the VHI.
"The funds from the agreement will come on stream in the next few weeks," he added.
Meanwhile, new legislation will be published today to give effect to a revamped risk equalisation scheme which is aimed at ensuring the system of community rating can continue.
Community rating is a protection to ensure that private health insurance companies must charge old and young subscribers the same premium, regardless of their age or health status, and it protects older people from having to pay higher fees.
The Bill will be enacted by the end of this year, in advance of its implementation from January 1, 2013.
The Irish Independent has already revealed that industry experts fear new levies, imposed under the scheme, could add as much as €200 to the cost of insuring a family of two adults and two children.
There is currently a temporary levy of €285 on every adult's health policy, with a €95 charge for children.
Health insurers have argued that the combination of higher levies and risk-equalisation rules restricting changes to plans without 90-days notice will add €200 to the cost of insuring each individual
The number of people covered by private health insurance fell recently for the sixth consecutive quarter.
Data published by the Health Insurance Authority says 2.1 million people were covered by inpatient health insurance at the end of June -- down by 16,000 on the same figure at the end of March.
The number with cover has dropped by 61,000 compared to the same time in 2011 -- and by 100,000 since 2010.