All I want is…

It’s reached that time of year again when big money has to be found to renew my health insurance policy. I freely admit that this has proved to be a good investment over the years as I have a complicated medical history which has resulted in higher than average expenses. I’m happy to pay out good money for health insurance but I would much prefer to contribute to a scheme that funds an efficiently-run single tier, not-for-profit health service rather than contribute to what is fast becoming an apartheid approach to healthcare in Ireland.

The Irish health service is set to be radically privatised over coming years. Tax incentives introduced by our government, are leading to the rapid development of private hospitals throughout the state. Some of these hospitals will be co-located on publicly owned land thus duplicating the need for highly trained staff in the one location. Privately insured patients will soon have every luxury imaginable available to them while public patients will continue to suffer in our poorly funded health service. Furthermore, the revised contract of employment for hospital consultants is set to complicate the system even more. Some of the consultants will be allowed to work with public patients only, others can opt to engage in limited private practice on the public hospital campus or in the co-located hospitals while a third type will work in the public system but will also treat patients outside the public hospital campus. It strikes me that this system of healthcare will benefit the consultants and the private insurance companies but does little to improve conditions for public patients. It’s no harm to bear in mind that every citizen in this state is entitled to a bed in a public hospital but with the chaos in existence, more than 50 percent of the population have opted to take-out private health insurance. With the escalation of private hospitals, it’s inevitable that a sharp increase in premiums will follow and more and more people will be forced to drop their private insurance. If the underfunded public sector cannot cope with it’s present burden, how on earth is it going to cope with a further influx from the private sector?

Patients shouldn’t have to negotiate a minefield of options when choosing health insurance. I don’t want to be forced to buy into a 2-tier health system where the type of care offered depends on the type of insurance held. When I become ill, all I want is to be guaranteed a bed in a clean, efficiently-run hospital which will provide good care when it’s needed. Public patients are presently being denied this basic right. I’m prepared to pay for this right but I believe that it should be available to everyone via a universal system of health insurance. What’s good enough for one, should be good enough for all. When I’m sick, I don’t want or need an á la carte menu. I want doctors who will treat me because I am ill, not because of the insurance I hold or because they can make a fast buck by offering me a bed in a high tech facility. The present plans for the reform of our health service are totally absurd. Is it really too much to ask for some common sense to be applied before it’s too late?

9 Responses to All I want is…

  1. Bendy Girl says:

    I think many of the current problems in health care provision are caused by it being catered towards the well who can pay and not the sick. So shortsighted when illness is no respecter of wealth or status. My concern is that it is set to get worse before it gets better. Sigh. Good luck with your insurance, and do you mind my asking how much (roughly) such policies cost and are they more expensive for those with pre existing conditions? BG

  2. Steph says:

    Hi! Bendy

    I was sitting struggling with my health insurance when your comment arrived. Health cover has become so ridiculously complicated, it’s a joke. All I want is to be able to access good care if and when I need it.

    Although everyone is perfectly entitled to see a specialist within the public health service, many people choose to go privately because of the long delays in the public system. If you need surgery and have health insurance, it doesn’t automatically mean you’re fully covered as it depends on what hospitals the surgeon has operating rights in and on what cover you have. We have level 1 & 2 private hospitals as well as public hospitals and they all specify different levels of cover. Nobody yet knows either what cover will be needed for the new co-located hospitals. It’s all a huge complicated mess.

    In answer to your question, my yearly cover costs approx €1,500. That covers me for all in-patient charges in most, but not all hospitals but it still gives very poor out-patient cover. Charges like GP visits, physiotherapy etc. all cost €50 a shot with little come-back from my insurance. When I first joined my insurance company, I took advantage of a ‘no questions asked’ offer to get into one of the best policies available. I know I would have great difficulty getting such cover now as years later, they tried to tell me I wasn’t entitled to cover as I had a pre-existing condition. I quoted their offer and they reluctantly shut-up. I know when you first join, you are not covered for any pre-existing conditions for a pre-set time and the same applies if you want to upgrade your level of cover.

    As you say Bendy, the outlook for healthcare in this country is not looking good.

  3. Baino says:

    Steph we have a two teir system here that works pretty well although there are waiting lists for elective surgery which can be frustrating. Private patients still pay a Medicare Levy to finance public facilities through their income tax but by having private health care, we also receive a 30% rebate for our insurance and we all receive an 85% rebate on some outpatient services through Medicare – it covers things such as ultrasound, xray and normal doctor’s visits. Fifty Euro is very high for a visit to an MD? Here the standard charge is $45 and those who cannot afford it are ‘bulk billed’ and the medics paid through the health system. I agree with the mine field of health insurance though . . .I can receive a rebate for massage and tennis shoes but am barely covered for dental!

  4. our glorious Health System ……

  5. Steph says:

    Baino – I’m about to add up my out-patient expenses for the year end and when I have them, I guarantee the figures will amaze you. And this has been a good year for me!

    Every year at this time, I carefully examine my insurance cover to see if I can a) reduce the cost and b) get a better return. I rang the insurance company yesterday with some queries having done online research and finished up with even more dilemmas. It’s a reflection of our ridiculous health service.

    Paddy – 😦

  6. Ian says:

    Steph,

    When we moved to this jurisdiction we were advised that although there were public beds, unless we had a health card, we would be liable for some of the cost? Is that not the case?

    We have the B Option cover, which doesn’t really provide for much more than the basic things. Your GP is cheap – it’s €60 here.

    I hold on to the hope that the border sees out my lifetime and that the NHS option remains a possibility by travelling North because the consultants here are never going to consent to a social health care system

  7. Steph says:

    In response to your question, Ian

    As far as I know, if you are admitted to a public ward and you’ve no medical card or private insurance, there is a small daily charge for maintenance in the same way that everyone who attends A&E (except those with medical cards) is charged a fee. On the other hand, if you are admitted to a public ward and you hold health insurance, then you are automatically classified as a private patient so that both the consultant and the hospital can claim off your insurance leaving you with no charge. You can refuse to avail of your insurance and request to be classified as a public patient but you’ll end paying the daily bed charge. I must check out how much this charge is.

    If your medical expenses are mainly out-patients ones, it might be worth your while reviewing your VHI cover as the Lifestage plans and Healthsteps offer better OP returns while also giving good IP cover. I have each member of my family insured on a different plan to reflect our individual needs and it’s well-worth doing.

    As regards GP charges, the lower charge is one of the few benefits of living on the Nordside! 😀

  8. Roy says:

    My wife works in the private sector, my daughter in the public (nursing) so I’m two tier all the way ,,,,,,,
    I’m all right Jack! lookin’ after number one
    Not words you’d associate with Geldof theses days eh?

  9. Steph says:

    Roy – I don’t blame you! You’re getting both sides of the picture and I know which one is preferable but sometimes you don’t have a choice where you end up when you’re ill.

    If you develop a complicated medical condition, you may find that you have to go to a public hospital to access the best treatment available. That’s why I keep harping of about the privatisation of the health service at the cost of the public service.

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