The representative organisation for the private and voluntary nursing homes sector was responding to public nursing home costs published by the HSE.
It pointed out that the HSE was paying itself up to 60% more than it forces the private and voluntary sector to accept for nursing home care.
NHI chief executive Tadhg Daly said the State was discriminating “in a scandalous way” against private and voluntary providers.
“The State is operating a two-tier funding system and has fought for five years not to disclose these figures,” said Mr Daly.
“It is unacceptable that private and voluntary providers are forced to provide care for fees way below to those paid to their HSE counterparts,” he stressed.
“Reform of the National Treatment Purchase Fund’s fee-setting system for private and voluntary operators has to come now on foot of these outrageous inequities in the state scheme.”
Mr Daly said they wanted immediate increases in private and voluntary nursing home fees under the Fair Deal scheme and to engage with the Department of Health and the HSE on this critical issue.
Public nursing homes costs vary from €311 a week at Dunabbey House, a low dependency centre in Dungarvan, Co Waterford, and €4,082 in Abbeyleix District Hospital, Co Laois.
However, the HSE points out that Abbeyleix District Hospital is one of a number of centres being refurbished or being converted from an extended stay to a short-stay facility.
The table of costs for public nursing homes shows that they ranged from around €1,000 to €1,500.
Agreed maximum prices with private and voluntary hospitals under the Government’s Fair Deal scheme range from €695 a week for St Eithne’s Rest care centre, Tulsk, Co Roscommon, to €1,300 for the Alzheimer’s care Centre in Highfield Hospital in Dublin.
However, the table of costs shows that agreed prices with private and voluntary nursing homes ranged from around €800 to just over €1,000.
The HSE accepted that there were differences in the cost of care for public and private nursing homes and gave a number of reasons.
It pointed out that it provided residential care services in rural areas that could not be viable for private operators. Also, bed numbers had to be reduced to meet residential care standards and to improve the environment and layout of many centres.
The health authority also said public nursing homes had higher nurse staffing ratios and were obliged to apply public service rates of pay and conditions. And while there was a heavy reliance on agency staffing because of a public sector recruitment moratorium this was changing, with staffing requirements being met through “more sustainable” contract arrangements.
Currently, public nursing homes provide 4,900 long stay beds (21%), and private and voluntary nursing homes provide 18,160 (79%).
The HSE intends publishing the nursing home data annually “in the interests of transparency” even though it is not required to do so.