Health costs to rise again

Hospital, nursing home and health insurance charges are all set to increase following the publication of a new Bill by Health Minister James Reilly.

The Health (Amendment) Bill 2013 gives effect to a number of Budget measures including:

* Charging all private inpatients for their bed accommodation costs in public hospitals.

* A €5 hike in the existing daily hospital charge, increasing it to €80. A €75 charge is currently levied on all patients attending hospitals for inpatient or day care, except those with medical cards.

* An increase in the asset contribution under the Nursing Homes Support (Fair Deal) Scheme from 5% to 7.5%.

Abolishing the requirement to backdate State support to the date of the Scheme's commencement for those who were in nursing home care prior to that date.

Under the legislation, hospitals will for the first time to charge all private patients with health insurance, even if they occupy a public bed. The Bill states that these new charges will apply where a patients waives their eligibility to services as a public patient.

The measure is expected to force health insurers to increase their premia in order to cover the extra fees hospitals will be charging on behalf of private patients under the new measure. The move is designed to boost public hospital income.

However it has been argued that resulting increase in health insurance premia will cause more people to give up insurance, thus negating the income-generating effect of the new measure.

A group representing health insurers, Insurance Ireland's Health Insurance Council, warned that the imposition of new public bed charges for private patients could lead to an increase of 30% in health insurance premiums.

The Department of Health says the measure is expected to raise €120 million in income for the health service from private patients in 2014.

The new bed charges for private patients in public hospitals under this provision range from €193 to just over €1,100.

Commenting on the nursing home asset contribution hike, Age Action Ireland said this was a clear attempt by the Government to take more value from the estates of older people, and will hit the families of older people quite hard. 

Age Action said it was is concerned that these changes would delay the admission of older people into nursing homes beyond the capacity of their carers to care for them at home. 

"We see the increase in the asset contribution from 5% to 7.5% as the lesser of two evils if the choice is between this measure and a severe curtailment of the scheme.

"However, the failure to continue backdating the benefits of the scheme to older people already in nursing homes is a severe setback to many families who have struggled over many years to keep their relative in a nursing home and will now have to apply for the Nursing Home Support Scheme without any reference to those years of struggle," Age Action said.

The Bill imposing the new charges is expected to be passed into law before the Dail summer recess.





[Posted: Sat 15/06/2013]


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