,Limerick East): The Health Insurance Regulations were signed by me and laid before the House of the Oireachtas on 28 March 1996.
One group which represents the views of persons suffering from certain psychiatric conditions has expressed concern about the minimum annual period of psychiatric in-patient cover which insurers will be legally obliged to provide under their policies. The regulations provide that the minimum period of guaranteed cover in respect of private psychiatric in-patient care is to be 100 days in a year. Furthermore, I am committed to making provision, at an early date, for a further period of 20 days day-patient care in private psychiatric hospitals. This is a significant improvement on the 40 days in-patient cover which was the original proposal on psychiatric cover. The level of cover now provided as a statutory minimum compares very favourably with the position taken by insurers elsewhere who specifically limit, in some cases extensively, their exposure to risk in the area of psychiatric illness or do not cover it at all. It is the practice of foreign insurers to exercise pre-authorisation of admissions to psychiatric hospitals and to otherwise be in a position to significantly qualify the basis on which benefit may be payable. My Department is not aware of any other case internationally where providers of private health insurance contract to make available cover for a period of 100 days psychiatric in-patient services without pre-certification and in an environment where the entire population is eligible for a free public psychiatric service.