Health Minister James Reilly is sitting on a €143 million stealth tax bomb which will hit working families next year. That’s according to Fianna Fáil Health Spokesperson Billy Kelleher TD who said that the Minister’s decision will also incentivise hospitals to keep public patients on waiting lists for longer.

“The Minister spoke at length in the Dáil about the effects of changes to the Health Budget. He said he intends to ‘increase income by €143 million next year through a combination of increased charges for private patients, improved collection of income and changes to legislation to allow for the charging of all private patients irrespective of whether they occupy a private bed or not’. Beyond this there are no specifics. There are no details. There is no plan.

“It seems to be the Government’s hope to get to Christmas and hope no one notices the massive stealth taxes that will hit families next year. However, make no mistake: Whatever way he goes about it, the €143 million Minister Reilly hopes to raise will come from hard pressed families in the form of higher premiums. The Minister acknowledged that premiums will go up by at least 4% from January, but refuses to reveal what the full extent of the increase will be.

“The lack of detail Minister Reilly is giving on this move is yet another example of the sneaky and underhanded approach this Government has taken to the Budget.

Deputy Kelleher also said that he was gravely concerned that the move will mean public patients will have to wait for longer to get a hospital bed. “Cuts to hospitals’ budgets have resulted in massive deficits across the country as hospital managers are being asked to do the impossible by the HSE – dramatically reduce costs while maintaining services.

“These moves will incentivise hospitals to give priority to private patients as they will be worth more to them to balance their budgets. This of course means that public patients will be the ones to suffer – they will have to wait longer for procedures. This is at a time when waiting lists are skyrocketing across the country.

Deputy Kelleher concluded: “Overall, this budget means another €143 million in charges for private patients, and longer waiting lists for public patients. This from a Minister who once championed a health system he called “Fair Care”. Yet these changes are not fair, and he doesn’t seem to care.”