Patients with insurance will pay €55m in charges a year in hospital plan

Insured patients treated in public hospitals would still pay around €55m a year in charges if the current system of private practice which encourages queue jumping ends, it has emerged.

Removing private practice from public hospitals would still leave all patients liable for the statutory overnight and day in-patient service charge of €80.

Documents released under Freedom of Information show that Department of Health officials believe that if private practice was banned in public hospitals, the additional statutory charges from former private patients would generate €55m in income.

This would offset some of the loss of €522m which public hospitals currently get from health insurers for treating private patients.

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The Exchequer would also save around €131m in tax relief for health insurance premiums because more would abandon cover if the public system improved.

The Government has still to decide how to proceed with the Donal de Buitléir report, which recommended the removal of private practice from public hospitals over 10 years.

Health Minister Simon Harris told the Cabinet it would free up 2,100 existing beds and reduce waiting lists by up to 25pc.

The report also recommended that all newly recruited consultants from now on be hired on contracts which confine them to treating public patients and not include private practice.

However, figures obtained by the Irish Independent reveal that since January this year the majority of consultants hired are on Type B contracts, which allow them to treat private patients in public hospitals.

The HSE said that since January some 68 new consultants were on these Type B contracts.

Only 22 of the newly hired specialists are on contracts which confine them to public patients only.

Around 19 of these new posts were for consultant psychiatrists.

Meanwhile, the documents show that private patient income in the three children’s hospitals in Dublin makes up 9pc of its overall income.

This comes as it emerged this week that some 86,000 children are on waiting lists to see a specialist across the country, including the three children’s hospitals.

It accounts for 18pc of income in the University of Limerick Hospital Group and 23pc in some individual hospitals.

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association yesterday reiterated its opposition to the removal of private patients in public hospitals. It claimed that the minister’s figures about the number of beds that would be freed do not stack up. The benefits if any would be “minuscule because patients needed to attend public hospitals to obtain appropriate care”, said the doctors.

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