Friday 15 December 2017

Reilly's €75m health sweetener

Eilish O'Regan and Niall O'Connor

PRIVATE health insurance companies got a €75m sweetener to agree to make a huge advance payment of fees to public hospitals.

In return for the early payment of €125m -- which would eventually have to be handed over anyway -- the minister agreed to postpone plans to impose other charges on health insurers until next year.

That decision has saved them €75m.

Earlier this week, Health Minister James Reilly announced that health insurers were making €125m in advance payments for treating patients in private beds in public hospitals.

In addition, the money would have been due for tests, X-rays and other medical procedures carried out on private patients.

The huge payment will ease the deficit faced by public hospitals and the HSE, which has a €374m overrun.

Plans to levy insurers for public beds occupied by private patients were announced in January. At present there is no charge if a private patient has to be placed in a public bed.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said that, as part of Budget 2012, the minister said he would bring in legislation to charge all private patients in public hospitals, irrespective of whether they occupied a public or a private bed.

Cashflow

"In discussions with the insurers, the minister indicated that he would be prepared to postpone implementation of the legislation until 2013 provided that the funds targeted in Budget 2012 for the current year could be raised through a system of improved cashflow.

"With this in mind, the Department of Health has now agreed in principle a system of improved cashflow and accelerated payment with private health insurers.

"This will provide a once-off cashflow benefit in 2012 in the order of €125m. The accelerated payment arrangements are at an advanced stage with the detail of the legal agreements between the HSE and insurers expected to be finalised very shortly," she added.

Dr Reilly, who was in Cork for the Health Innovation Hub Demonstrator Project, responded to claims by Fianna Fail TD Billy Kelleher that he failed to get documents sought under Freedom of Information (FoI) on primary care centres.

Dr Reilly said: "He is going to get the reply but he is not going to get it immediately. There are 300-odd FoI requests in with the department at the moment and he is not the only person with a FoI who cannot get an immediate response.

"On top of that, we have in excess of 200 parliamentary questions every single week into health and it takes a huge amount of time, so that answer will be given."

Irish Independent

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