,Limerick East): I propose to take Questions Nos. 31 and 64 together.
Recently in a reply to a question in the House I said that I had no plans to intervene in the dispute between the Voluntary Health Insurance Board and the Independent Hospital Association of Ireland relating to arrangements for payment in respect of the treatment of VHI members in 18 private hospitals. The parties concerned have not called on me to become involved as both are aware that I am not in a position to intervene in the dispute.
I remain of the view that arrangements relating to the cost of services are matters to be directly negotiated between any health insurer and service providers. I do not have any statutory function in the appointment of arbitrators to resolve commercial disputes between health insurers and service providers. Furthermore, I consider that such a role for me would be wholly inappropriate in the context of the evolving competitive health insurance market for which I, as Minister, am the regulatory authority.
It is a matter for the parties to decide whether they want to pursue the course of referring their differences to arbitration. I would have no objection to such a course being agreed between the two sides.