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Charges for public beds will drive insurance premiums up 30%

In the government’s health bill, published yesterday, there could now be a daily charge for a single occupancy room of up to €1,122.

Image: Hospital bed image via Shutterstock

HEALTH INSURERS HAVE warned that premiums will increase by 30 per cent if the government pushes forward with plans to charge for the use of public beds.

Yesterday the government published the Health Bill which included measures to charge all private in-patients in public hospitals and increase charges for services in acute hospitals from €75 to €80.

There now be a daily charge of up to €1,122 for private in-patient services where overnight accommodation is provided in a single occupancy room. For multi-occupancy rooms, the daily charge could reach €860 and for services where overnight accommodation is not provided, costs could reach €760.

In a submission to the government, the Insurance Ireland Health Insurance Council said that a premium price increase of this magnitude would force as many as 300,000 people out of the health insurance market.

The council said that the reduction in the percentage insured, down from 51 per cent in 2008 to as estimated 35.7 per cent in 2015 would have a two-fold impact:

  • It would greatly increase reliance on the public health sector adding to the burden on the exchequer.
  • It would also sharply reduce the income stream public hospitals get from privately insured patients. The net effect would be a cost of approximately €90 million to the exchequer.

Kevin Thompson, Chief Executive of Insurance Ireland said yesterday that if implemented, the plan would provoke “profound volatility that could destabilise the health insurance market in Ireland”.

The council said the best opportunity the government had to raise the funds it has ear marked from its new public beds charge was to engage with the private health insurers to implement a number of sustainable cost reduction initiatives.

The new arrangements for charging private patients in public hospitals are expected to raise in the region of €120 million in 2014.

Read: Changes to health insurance system won’t mean 15pc hike – government>
Read: Charging private patients for public beds will drive up premiums by 25% – report>

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