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not letting it go

HSE spent nearly €3 million pursuing unpaid hospital charges using debt collectors

The health authority spent nearly €3 million on debt recovery during the period 2011 to 2017.

shutterstock_724849474 File photo Shutterstock / sutee sodsai Shutterstock / sutee sodsai / sutee sodsai

PUBLIC HOSPITALS HAVE spent almost €3 million hiring private debt collectors to pursue patients for unpaid charges since 2011, new figures have revealed.

The HSE-run hospitals were owed a total of €40.1 million at the end of last year in respect of unpaid Emergency Department (ED) fees, statutory inpatient charges, and costs relating to Road Traffic Accidents (RTAs).

This does not include approximately €145 million typically owed by health insurance companies for the treatment of private patients in public facilities.

The amount paid to debt collectors by public hospitals to chase unpaid charges has increased in each of the past six years, rising by 66% during that period to €587,081 last year.

Cork University Hospital (CUH) has spent the highest amount on debt-collection services, paying a total of €469,247 in pursuit of unpaid ED, RTA and statutory inpatient charges since 2011.

The hospital was owed a total of €3.6 million in respect of these charges at the end of last year – the third highest amount behind Galway University Hospitals (€5.8 million) and University Hospital Waterford (€4 million).

File Photo The Health Service Executive went over budget by Û132 million to June, according to its latest performance report.

Galway University Hospitals (GUH) spent €307,536 on debt-collection services during the same six-year period, while University Hospital Waterford (UHW) had the next-highest spend of €233,235.

The €40.1 million in unpaid charges includes €6.1 million relating to the €100 standard fee for attendance at an emergency department. This fee is not applied in certain circumstances, such as in the case of medical-card holders and patients referred by a GP.

Almost €10.3 million remained payable to hospitals in respect of statutory inpatient charges, which apply to all public patients admitted to hospital with the exception of medical-card holders and patients entitled to services under EU regulations.

The statutory inpatient charge is €80 per day up to a maximum of €800 in any one year.

The figures, which were released by the HSE under the Freedom of Information Act, show that the remaining €23.8 million owed to public hospitals at the end of last year related to charges applied for services provided in the case of RTAs.

“The HSE continues to work on improving the speed and efficiency of the collection of patient income,” stated a spokesperson for the health authority.

The HSE seeks to maximise the recovery of income in a socially responsible, ethical, efficient and cost-effective way.
In all cases where a charge is due, in accordance with the legislation, hospitals have a statutory obligation to raise and pursue that charge.

“It should be noted that the collection of monies owed is a continuous, daily and large-scale process. The major part of the amounts invoiced by HSE hospitals, and unpaid at any given moment, relate to private insurers,” they added.

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Darragh McDonagh
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