So the talks between the INO, the PNA and the HSE continue at a painfully slow pace – at a painful cost of €2 million (of our hard-earned taxes) per week apparently to the HSE and of course also, at the expense of patient services across the country. And our Minister for Health continues to alienate all around her in the Health Service, her latest target being the VHI.
The Government announced proposals last week to reform VHI. Part of this plan is to be achieved by bringing forward the deadline for VHI to meet normal solvency requirements from 2012 to the end of 2008. As anticipated, VHI are unhappy and their trade union, Amicus, are looking to the State to provide the injection of funds required. As a member of VHI since age 18 (and I’m no spring chicken I can assure you) I feel entitled to ask the following questions:-
Why does VHI pay in full for all elective investigative in-patient stays? Surely when something is elective it means that it is by choice and therefore the patient should carry some responsibility. It strikes me that there are an awful lot of private patients choosing (perhaps with encouragement from their private consultant) to opt to have their investigations carried out as an in-patient because all expenses will be paid in full. Why trek around the place having out-patient tests which have to be paid for up front by the patient (and will only be partially re-imbursed at the end of the subscription year) when VHI is prepared to fully fund you as an in-patient in a private hospital with an á la carte menu to boot. And in the words of Garret FitzGerald, Irish Times 28/04/07, there is presently an “unseemly haste in pushing private healthcare”.
The same principle applies to out-patient scans such as MRI’s and CT’s. The VHI has a direct payment scheme in place with many of the new private hospitals settling the bill directly with VHI so that the private patient doesn’t even see the cost of the procedure. Why would a private patient opt to have a good old-fashioned x-ray which still costs good old-fashioned money when the option to have an MRI or CT is available to them free of charge. Surely this is madness and is ‘bleeding’ VHI to death?
So no surprise then that the annual subscription rates continue to rise and rise. I could go on and on.
Oh Mary, Mary, quite contrary – how does your VHI grow?