04 Oct 2022

Louth's Fitzpatrick calls for changes in private health insurance system

Deputy Fitzpatrick speaks in Dáil on issue

Louth's Fitzpatrick calls for changes in private health insurance system

Louth's Fitzpatrick calls for changes to private health insurance system

Louth TD Peter Fitzpatrick raised the issue of Private Health Insurance in the Dáil this week, where he said that many of his constituents in Louth have issues with their health provider, including where, he says, it does not give them cover for certain hospitals including the Louth County Hospital in Dundalk.

In his Dáil contribution Deputy Fitzpatrick said that:

"In Ireland our health insurance is supposed to be community rated. The Health Insurance Acts prohibit risk rating, the reason being to ensure people will, in theory, pay the same price regardless of their age or health status. The health insurance market in Ireland is worth over €2.5 billion and 2.31 million people are covered, which represents 46% of the population.

“Section 8 of the Bill provides for a reduction in the stamp duty levies on policies from 1 April 2022. The current levels of duty are €52 per child and €157 per adult for non-advanced contracts and €150 per child and €449 per adult for advanced contracts. It is proposed to reduce these amounts to €41 per child and €120 per adult for non-advanced contracts and €135 per child and €406 per adult for advanced contracts.

"It is noted that stamp duties are levied on insurance companies rather than consumers and, therefore, it is up to insurance companies to decide whether to pass on any reductions to customers. It is important that every Member of the House make the point that it is imperative that the insurance companies pass on this reduction to consumers. If we were discussing an increase, there would be no question that the increase would be passed on to the consumer.

"During the pandemic, the cover provided by private health insurance has been drastically reduced. While I acknowledge refunds were given to members, these did not cover the true reduction in services experienced. In effect, the private hospitals were not available for many treatments. The reductions in stamp duties must be passed on to the consumer.

"The insurance companies have been increasing premiums each year. Health insurance is still too expensive. Why does more than half the population not have private health insurance? In my constituency office in Dundalk I deal with a large number of queries from constituents who have had issues with their health Insurance provider. One of the issues that consistently crops up is that of not having cover for a particular treatment or hospital. Much of the time, exclusions are buried among pages of small print.

"Has anybody looked at the number of different policies available lately? There are literally hundreds of different policies to choose from. This is only confusing the consumer. Why do we need so many different policies? Surely there can be a more simplified system. Many policies have more hidden exclusions buried in the small print. If we want to make health cover more accessible, we need a simpler and more transparent system. I have read through a number of policies lately and to be honest this area is a minefield.

"My colleague, Deputy Naughten, has previously raised an issue in relation to model 2 hospitals and the fact that a particular insurance provider decided it would not provide cover in these hospitals. He rightly pointed out that we cannot have a situation where these insurance companies can decide not to provide cover.

"Hospitals such as the Louth County Hospital provide an excellent service for local people. They take great pressure away from the larger hospitals and to have a scenario where particular insurance companies simply cannot provide cover is wrong.

"Insurance companies that decide not to provide cover for model 2 hospitals must be called to account. They are undermining the health system. We must support our local hospitals such as the Louth County Hospital rather than exclude them from private health cover. The bottom line is that health cover should be available for every model 2 hospital in the country.

"Will the Minister of State comment on this matter and provide the House with an update on any discussions the Department has had on it?

"If we are to encourage more people to take on private health insurance, the system needs to be more transparent and easier to navigate. We have three insurance providers, yet we have literally hundreds of different policies available. Reading through the small print of many of these polices, one finds too many exclusions. This needs to change.

"The cost of health cover also needs to be reduced as it is too expensive. Why is health cover in Ireland among the most expensive in Europe? I ask the Minister for Health to examine the issue of certain providers excluding model 2 hospitals from cover. This practice needs to stop and the providers need to address it.

"I call on the insurance companies to pass on the reduction to stamp duties directly to their customers. As I said, if there was an increase, the insurance providers would pass it on immediately."

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