Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Questions (869)

Pat Buckley

Question:

869. Deputy Pat Buckley asked the Minister for Health his plans to direct the HSE to cease engaging debt-collecting agencies to pursue patients who are already under immense financial pressure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7047/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

Patient charges are a key element of the overall funding envelope of the Irish health system and are taken into account when agreeing the Annual Estimates and the subsequent preparation of the annual National Service Plan.

These charges typically include:

- Out-patient charges;

- Emergency Department charges;

- Daily in-patient charges; and

- Long-term stay charges.

There are cohorts of people who are exempt from these charges, including, but not limited to persons with full eligibility, women receiving services in respect of motherhood, children up to the age of six weeks, children suffering from diseases prescribed under section 52 (2) of the Act, and persons receiving services for the diagnosis or treatment of infectious diseases.

In addition, patients who opt for private in-patient services in public hospitals are liable for a range of private accommodation charges. There are no exemptions from these charges.

Non collection of debts owed directly impacts on the affordability of services provided by the Health Service Executive in any year. It is therefore incumbent on the HSE to take all reasonable steps to pursue amounts owed for services delivered. Debt collection agencies are engaged when normal billing arrangements have been unsuccessful

The operational detail of this question is a matter for the HSE and I have asked them to respond to you directly in relation to that detail.