Money raised by the Health Service Executive from private patient charges is expected to reach €622m by the end of the year.
However, the HSE said its current financial system did not have the facility to provide a breakdown of the charges made.
The health service is getting almost €14bn funding from the Government next year: a 3.4% increase.
The recently announced funding is provided as part of the Government’s commitment to placing the health service on a financial footing, according to HSE director general, Tony O’Brien.
However, the cost of running the health service in 2017 is thought to be about €2bn more than the HSE has received from the Government so it will be relying on money raised in income.
Patients who opt for private in-patient or day-care services in public hospitals are liable for a range of private accommodation charges as well as the statutory charge.
Health insurance analyst with totalhealthcover.ie, Dermot Goode, is concerned that health insurers are paying for patients who change their status from public to private, without getting any benefit.
“Indications from the health insurers are that this figure is €150m and rising which indicates that 25% of the income generated from the health insurers may be for private services that may never have been rendered to patients,” said Mr Goode.
“Unfortunately, consumers are not exercising their right to be treated as public patients, irrespective of whether they have private cover or not.”
“The extra €150m in income has resulted in price hikes of approximately 5% to all health insurance members. If consumers continue to accept charges in public hospitals for services they won’t receive, they can expect to pay higher premiums again for their cover through 2017 and onwards,” said Mr Goode.
He said patients who did not sign any forms would still be in the public system and only charged €75 a night, up to a max of €750, which is fully covered under all health insurance plans.
He questioned the practice in some public hospitals of asking people who were sick and vulnerable to sign forms to be treated differently when there was little chance, or likelihood, of them getting any private services, such as a private room.
“At the very least, all private health insurance members should insist on a private room before signing this form,” he said.
Of course, patients accessing services privately in public hospitals and skipping the public queue were liable for the higher private charges.
However, he said all those accessing services through hospital emergency departments were entitled to avail of public hospital treatment, irrespective of whether they hold private cover or not.
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