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Dublin: 4 °C Wednesday 1 October, 2014

Private hospitals ‘risk closure’ if State changes charges for public beds

A group of independent hospitals says asking private patients to waive public rights will send premiums even higher.

Image: VILevi via Shutterstock

THE GROUP representing Ireland’s independent hospitals has said some hospitals will have to consider closure if the government carries through with plans to change how private health insurers are charged for using public hospitals.

The Independent Hospitals Association of Ireland (IHAI) says its members may face major financial trouble if the plans are brought through – because it could mean a 30 per cent increase in private health insurance premiums, which would ultimately mean fewer customers.

The Health (Amendment) Bill 2013, published last week, aims to overhaul the way in which patients with private insurance are covered in public hospitals – essentially introducing a system where private patients waive their right to the use of public services.

As they would have waived their entitlement to public care, private customers could then be charged up to €1,122 per day for a hospital stay, depending on the grade of the hospital, whether they stay overnight, and the type of room they are assigned if they are staying overnight.

IHAI says the changes could force private health insurance policies to rise by 30 per cent – a move which would force many customers to give up their policies, and which would therefore see independent hospitals pushed to the brink of collapse.

The hospitals say they treat 400,000 patients each year – around a fifth of the total number of patients seen in an Irish hospital each year – and carry out nearly half of all heart surgeries and two-thirds of spinal surgeries.

IHAI chief executive Catherine Whelan said the moves would result in “reduced capacity in the independent healthcare sector, reduced choice and a growing reliance on an already overburdened public hospital system.”

This afternoon, however, health minister James Reilly repeated the government’s assertion that any increase would be nowhere near this amount – labelling the claims as “scaremongering”.

He encouraged private insurers to “come to the table” with options for how they could change the relationship between private patients and public facilities.

Read: Charges for public beds will drive insurance premiums up 30%

Explainer: Why should you get a European Health Insurance Card before travelling?

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