Guidelines issued by the HSE’s chief financial officer, Stephen Mulvany, have made it clear the move is necessary to protect public services and bring in vital extra funds.
Under the plan, which the memo from Mr Mulvany accepts is a “breach of policy” and could potentially be a breach of contract with insurers, hospitals will be allowed to charge health companies for treating covered patients privately, even when that care takes place in public wards.
The correspondence states that this should take place regardless of whether the patient involved is “admitted on an emergency basis”; is treated on a bed, therapy chair, recliner, or trolley; or is seen in a corridor.
The Department of Health said that it will not lead to increased private health insurance charges due to the extra cost for the firms involved.
However, independent health insurance expert Dermot Goode said the “blitz” on the sector will inevitably catch the companies off-guard, and is almost certain to result in coverage fees rising in January.
“It implies private patients with insurance are to be charged differently to public patients,” Mr Goode said.
Last month, a survey by One Big Switch claimed that as many as 600,000 people will abandon their coverage if premiums rise by between 1% and 10% in the coming weeks.