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Public Hospital Bed Charges: What Do They Mean?

Read time: 3 mins

Unsurprisingly, there’s still lots of confusion when it comes to Irish public hospital bed charges, and what you can expect to pay as an insurance holder. If in the last four years you’ve been admitted to a public hospital through A&E, you may have been asked to sign a form, but not been sure what it meant. Here, we’ll explain what the Private Insurance Patient form entails, how it affects premiums, and why you’re not obliged to sign it.

Background

Back in 2014, the Irish Government changed the way public hospitals charge health insurers. Prior to this, the insurer was only charged a higher rate than that charged to the general public if the patient was guaranteed to be accommodated in a semi-private or private room. Now though, health insurance customers can be charged over ten times the normal rate, regardless of whether or not they receive this kind of accommodation.

What do I Need to Know?

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Once you’ve been admitted to a public hospital, and you have disclosed that you have health insurance, you’ll be asked to sign the Private Insurance Patient form. What might not be made clear to you is that by signing this form, you waive your rights to public treatment in a public hospital. However, unless the hospital can guarantee you that private or semi-private room, you’ll receive the exact same treatment as a public patient. 62%* of people are unaware that private patients can be charged over ten times the public rate; in fact, by signing the form, your health insurer will be charged €813 per day compared to the public rate of €80. Remember, you’re within your rights to not sign the form, and you’ll still receive the same treatment if private or semi-private accommodation isn’t available.

Increased Premiums

There’s huge financial repercussions when health insurance holders sign the form without realising what it means. The issue has actually increased the cost of health insurance claims by €200 million a year – having a direct impact on the price you pay for your health insurance. Plus, if you sign the form, you’re essentially paying twice for your stay in a public hospital; once through general taxation, and again through your private health insurance.

What are my Options?

Before you sign, be sure to ask: "Can I be guaranteed a private or semi-private room?" If the answer’s no, the treatment you’ll receive will be the same as public. Regardless, if you sign the form, you’ll be charged (through your health insurer) ten times more – making the question well worth asking!

To find out more, visit insuranceireland.eu

*Research - Ipsos MRBI, 2017 on behalf of Insurance Ireland.