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In October 2014, the HSE sent a ‘legislative clarification’ to public hospitals, directing them to charge private patients for the use of public beds on foot of new legislation introduced at the start of 2014, increasing the costs for private patient stays in public hospital beds from the standard €75 a night up to €813 a night, to be covered by the insurer.
In July, Laya increased its health insurance plan prices by an average of 7 per cent, largely blaming the increased bed charges, saying they were “driving an unsustainable spike in the cost and volume of claims”.
“We had been given reassurances from Government when the charge was first introduced that the Public Bed Re-designation Charge would generate an additional revenue yield of no more than €30 million, and that insurers would not experience any increase in consultant claims. But this has not been the case in reality; two years on, the actual cost incurred by health insurers is in excess of €100 million, representing an unfair and wholly unsustainable burden to health insurers, and more critically, to the 2.1 million people who have invested in private health cover. And, unfortunately, it is these people who are losing out, as they are paying for services that are not being delivered,” a spokesperson for Laya told the Medical Independent (MI).
Last week, Laya ramped-up its information campaign on the charges, which includes a dedicated website, with a sponsored article on The Irish Times website with its head of claims Ms Niamh Curtin quoted as saying: “A patient does not have to sign the waiver form if they don’t wish to and can simply proceed to being treated publicly.”
The move has angered the Department and HSE and the Department is understood to have examined the possibility of complaining about Laya’s actions to its regulators, the Central Bank and the Health Insurance Authority.
While the Department did not answer questions from MI about what if any actions it planned to take against Laya, it did point out that “… the application of a charge by a hospital for in-patient services is obligatory under the legislation, irrespective of whether the patient occupies a public-designated bed or private-designated bed, as it relates to the private treatment provided”.