Parents to save up to €800 a year per child as inpatient hospital charges for under-16s scrapped

Inpatient hospital fees for children under the age of 16 will be abolished from today, saving parents up to €800 per year.

Health Secretary Stephen Donnelly is to officially announce today that the charges of €80 per night – up to a maximum of €800 per year – will no longer apply to children who are hospitalised.

The move will bring some relief to parents who are under financial pressure, not only through hospital fees but also through other costs such as parking, housing, travel, meals and time off work while their child is in hospital.

That comes ahead of pressure to further cut household health care costs next week as the burden of illness amplifies the cost-of-living crisis for patients and their loved ones.

The loss of inpatient costs for children will have to be compensated for in some way for the inferior hospitals, especially the three children’s hospitals in Dublin.

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The minister announced this earlier Irish Independent he would seek the abolition of inpatient and outpatient fees for adults.

It’s unclear if this will materialize, but if it did, patients would save up to €30 million annually.

The inpatient surcharge of 80 euros per day for a hospital stay or an outpatient procedure – a maximum of 800 euros per year – is one of the charges that patients without a health card or private health insurance have to pay.

It’s becoming an increasing financial burden as more and more people struggle to pay higher energy and food bills. Many cancer patients who attend chemotherapy and radiation therapy sessions are also billed.

With an average hospital stay of around five days, the abolition could lead to a typical saving of 400 euros per patient.

VHI and Laya Healthcare must also include the fee in fees paid to public hospitals to cover their inpatient members.

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Both have previously said they would assess how such a move could affect premiums.

In the meantime, the main focus in the budget next week will be whether to announce a further reduction in the drug payment scheme threshold from €80 a month.

While free contraception for women aged 17 to 25 went into effect last week, some measures in last year’s budget have yet to kick off, including extending the GP visit card to children aged six and seven.

Negotiations with the Irish Medical Organization to expand the system are ongoing.

The long time it takes for some budgetary measures to take effect underscores the wait that will be associated with the implementation of new measures that will be announced next Tuesday.

Separately, the Neurological Alliance of Ireland (NAI), the national governing body of over 30 neurological charities in Ireland, yesterday called on the government to include €3.3million in funding for neurological care services in next week’s budget.

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Such funding is essential to fully fund at least four of the seven required community neurorehabilitation teams and to appoint 20 additional nurses to adult neurological services.

At a pre-budget meeting with TDs yesterday, members of the group said neurology waiting lists now stand at over 24,000, a 20 percent increase over the past five years.

The number of people waiting longer than 18 months to see a neurologist has doubled from 4,040 in July 2018 to 7,636 in May 2022.

Magdalen Rogers, NAI Executive Director, said: “An investment of €3.3 million from the Government in the 2023 Budget could have a direct impact on the lives of over 800,000 people with neurological conditions in Ireland. It is shocking that Ireland remains among the least developed neurorehabilitation services in all of Europe, with the fewest number of rehabilitation medicine specialists.”

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