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Awareness increasing but 44% of health insurance customers still not aware of the practice of asking them to waive their rights to public treatment in public hospitals

• 55% of health insurance customers now aware of the issue, up from 42% in 2017 - Private Health Insurers to continue keeping customers informed of their rights

• Insurance Ireland calls for consistent and clear information to be provided to patients when asked to waive their right to public treatment

• 80% of adults surveyed believe it is unacceptable for private health insurance customers to pay twice for their public treatment, once through taxation and again through their health insurance

“It is important that patients understand what they are being asked to sign when presented with this form in A&E. When presented with the form, they should ask ‘what additional services will I receive by waiving my right to public treatment?’” – Kevin Thompson, CEO of Insurance Ireland 

Issued 23 April 2019. Insurance Ireland has welcomed an increase in awareness of the practice of asking private health insurance holders to waive their rights to public treatment in public hospitals and is advising customers faced with this choice to ask, ‘what additional services will I receive by waiving my right to public treatment?’ However, it remains a concern that 44% of private health insurance holders are still not aware of this practice. Insurance Ireland believes patients should be given clear and consistent information when asked to waive their right to public treatment.

 

Patients with private health insurance being admitted to public hospitals through A&E are being asked to sign a Private Insurance Patient Form (PIPF) waiving their right to treatment as public patients. Signing the form results in the patient’s health insurance company being charged over ten times more than the public rate, €813 per day private versus €80 per day public, often regardless of whether they are given additional services, such as a private room or the choice of consultant.

 

Research was conducted in January 2017 and January 2019 by Ipsos MRBI for Insurance Ireland on the awareness and attitudes to this waiver form and charge. The research reveals that 55% of health insurance customers are now aware of the practice, up from 42% in 2017. 

 

However, there is still a major lack of understanding and awareness. The research shows almost half (48%) of those with private health insurance who were admitted to a public hospital in the past two years and asked to sign the PIPF were unaware of what the waiver form being presented to them meant and more than one in three (38%) felt they “had no choice” but to sign the form.

 

Commenting on the research findings, Kevin Thompson, CEO of Insurance Ireland says, “It is important that patients understand what they are being asked to sign when presented with this form in A&E. Signing this form means you consent to waive your right to public treatment in a public hospital, often regardless of whether you are given additional services such as a private room or the choice of consultant.

 

“To make an informed choice, patients need to be aware of the options available to them and when presented with this form, private health insurance customers should ask ‘what additional services will I receive by waiving my right to public treatment?’ If a customer chooses not to sign the form, they can be reassured that their insurer will still cover their costs. 

 

“Our research shows many patients do not understand the form or what its purpose is. There is a need for consistency and clarity in the information provided to patients when presenting them with the form and asking them to waive their right to pubic treatment. Private Health Insurers will continue their efforts to educate customers about their rights and entitlements when admitted to a public hospital.

 

Kevin concluded, “Customers should be aware that they may be paying twice for potentially the exact same treatment, once through their general taxes and once through their private health insurance. Our research found that 80% of adults are against this practice and we believe charging private health insurance holders twice for public treatment in public hospitals amounts to double taxation.”

 

 

 

Ends

 

Notes for Editors:

 

Insurance Ireland is the Voice of Insurance in Ireland representing the Life, Non-Life, International, Reinsurance and Captive sectors. The Insurance Ireland Health Council comprises representatives of Irish Life Health, Laya Healthcare and Vhi, comprising 95% of the health insurance market.

  

  • Research was conducted by Ipsos MRBI for Insurance Ireland on the awareness and attitudes to this charge by people with private health insurance, those without private health insurance and those with health insurance who were admitted to a public hospital and presented with the form in the past two years. This follows initial research on the subject conducted by Ipsos MRBI in January 2017. 

  

  • 80% of all adults aged 18+ disagree with the statement that “it is acceptable for those with private health insurance to pay for their treatment twice, once through general taxation and again through their insurance policy, when in a public hospital”.

 

  • In January 2017 and again in January 2019 we asked those with private health insurance if they are aware that patients in public hospitals who have health insurance are being asked to sign a form to agree to waive their right to be treated as a public patient. In January 2017, 42% were aware, 56% were unaware and 2% said they can’t recall. In January 2019, 55% were aware, 44% were unaware and 1% said they can’t recall.

 

  • 38% of those surveyed with health insurance who had been admitted into a public hospital, excluding any maternity hospitals, in the past 24 months and were asked to sign this form said they felt they did not have a choice in signing it. Furthermore, the research shows almost half (48%) of those with private health insurance who were admitted to a public hospital in the past two years and asked to sign a PIPF were not aware they were being asked to waive their right to be treated as a public patient.

 

  • When Private Health Insurance customers sign this form in public hospitals their health insurer is charged €813 per day. Those treated as public patients pay a nightly rate of €80 which is capped at €800 in any 12-month period. If patients choose the public treatment option, their insurer will also cover this cost.

  

  • The findings came from a telephone poll of a nationally representative sample of 985 respondents aged 18+ with a margin of error (of +/-3%) at an overall level. Fieldwork for this research was conducted from 2nd-15th January 2019. Questions were repeated from the previous fieldwork (3rd-16th of January 2017), to allow for trended comparison.

 

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