State is still on hook for private medical payouts
THE Government is to continue to subsidise the cost of compensation payouts for private patients who are harmed by consultants in public hospitals.
The subsidies were introduced nearly a decade ago to keep the premiums affordable for consultants treating private patients in public hospitals.
Currently, the State pays a portion of medical negligence compensation when the payout goes above €500,000.
But this limit is now rising to €565,000, meaning the insurance company covering the doctor will cover this amount and the State will shell out for the rest of any compensation award.
Medical negligence compensation payouts for public patients are paid for in full by the State Claims Agency.
The deal, which sees the State subsidising compensation payouts for private patients treated in public hospitals, was worked out in 2005 after some consultants warned they might otherwise have to give up private practice.
The subsidy on compensation limits the cost of the insurance premium for the consultant.
The Department of Health's view is that the cover is needed to ensure the private system works properly and patients do not end up back in the public system. It does not include cover for work done in private hospitals.
The Government believes the subsidy is worthwhile as it makes the private system feasible.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Dr James Reilly got government approval this week to update the limits on professional indemnity cover needed by consultants "in private practice in private hospitals".
The cap on the cover will be adjusted annually in line with the Consumer Price Index.
The limit on indemnity cover, along with the creation of the Clinical Indemnity Scheme (CIS), formed part of the suite of measures put in place in response to a "crisis" in the commercial medical malprac tice indemnity market in 2001.
"The caps were necessary to minimise the impact of the Clinical Indemnity Scheme on the private healthcare sector," the government decision noted.
"The introduction of caps ensured that private consultants were not treated preferentially by the State in comparison to those in the private sector."
The new limits cover the following: obstetricians, neurosurgeons and certain ortho- paedic surgeons are capped at €565,000 per claim, subject to an annual aggregate limit of €1.7m per consultant; for all other specialities, the limit is €1.1m per claim, with no aggregate limit.
The previous limits were €500,000 and €1m.
Cover is provided by the state scheme for claims which exceed the limits.