People with health insurance are being warned not to sign a waiver form when they are admitted to public hospitals.
On The Pat Kenny Show this morning, health insurance expert Dermot Goode said insured patients are being asked to sign a form waiving their right to be treated as a public patient when they’re admitted.
As a result, their insurance companies are being charged ten times the amount for their hospital stay.
He warned that, if large numbers of patients continue to sign the waiver, it will inevitably lead to companies charging higher premiums.
“People are being told don’t worry, it is not going to cost you anything,” he said.
“It may not cost you anything there and then but if everybody signs those forms, it’s going to result in a huge increase in claims for public hospitals which will be passed on to all health insurance members by way of higher premium – so it is going to cost you.”
Mr Goode said all Irish citizens are entitled to be treated as public patients.
Once they’re admitted the only charge they should face is the €80 per night fee.
That fee can only be charged for ten nights in any given year, meaning the most you can be charged is €800.
He said signing the form permits the hospital to charge your insurance company more than ten times that amount.
“What is happening is the hospitals are allowed to single out people who have private health insurance,” he said.
“Somebody from the accounts department in the hospital will approach you and ask you, do you want to be treated as a public patient.
“It sounds innocent enough. They’ll get you to sign a separate form. It is a waiver form. Basically, you’re signing away your right to be treated as a public patient, which sounds fine; however, once you sign that form, your insurance company will now be charged €813 per night with no limit.
“So, it’s ten times the charge.”
Mr Goode said patients who sign the waiver generally do not see any change in their level of care.
“They stay in the same bed, they’re in the same queue, they’ll see the same doctor they were going to see anyway, and they’ll be in a public ward which will have a fancy name – a multi-occupancy ward with six or ten beds in it,” he said.
“But they will be charged €800 per night whereas the person beside them who is a public patient getting the same treatment in the same ward will be charged €80 per night.”
He said patients who are promised a private room by signing the form should refuse to sign until after they’re moved.
“We’ve come across cases where people have been led to believe they’ll get the private room, they’ve signed the form and the private room never materialises.
“So, you really should hold off and say, as soon as you get me that room and I’m in it, I’ll sign the form.
“Otherwise, you’ll be accepting liability for those huge extra charges, and nothing will change.”
Mr Goode is the founder of totalhealthcover.ie.
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