January 19, 2017

Opinion: Could BUPA’s decade old grand plan have saved the Irish healthcare system and made the current overcrowding crisis non-existent?

It has been over 10 years since BUPA left Irish shores after their much publicised Risk Equalisation case with the state over costs owed to the VHI was left unchallenged in the High Court, but with the current healthcare system in disarray was the healthcare giant right about its radical proposals to overhaul the Irish health system for the better.

The giant health insurer who have shown that a system of privately run BUPA hospitals is effective especially in the UK, were forced away by our very own government after they were rejected the right to take on further customers who would have been taken care of under their own healthcare scheme, which included the use of purposely built private/semi private hospitals and health clinics across the country.

However BUPA’s great vision that would have seen thousands of its Irish customers being treated away form current overcrowded public hospitals fell apart after they found themselves embroiled in a €160m legal case with the state over mandatory payments to the VHI who had considerably older patients.

Back in 2006 BUPA had over 460,000 patients and were continuing to grow at a rapid rate compared to the partially state owned VHI, found themselves being halted in their tracks after the state ruled that the company must owe the substantial amount to it’s rival company given the fact that they had far more younger patients than it’s counterpart, which in turn was deemed an unfair market given that elderly people were far more likely to make a claim.

Although BUPA disputed the fact and brought their case to the High Court the state and the VHI ultimately won the battle in the end as the vastly growing health insurer decided to pull out of the Irish market before an official ruling was ever made.

Following the decision the remainder of BUPA’s loyal customers found themselves being part of the Liberty group before it was eventually sold off to Laya, both of whom who never faced the same legal action as they were new entrant’s to the Irish market which made them exempt to Risk Equalisation case for the first three years operating in the state. A short time later the particular issue was made irrelevant as the state introduced a new scheme that would see levies placed on all health insurance members which in turn would fund a system of tax credits for those over 50 who have private medical insurance.

Now almost 11 years on one can’t help but think did the Irish government led by Bertie Ahern and Co get in their own way and doom the way the Irish health system is run. Even though the country did suffer a dramatic economic downturn just under three years later, would have the BUPA private healthcare scheme survived and improve the Irish health service for the better.

Although there would be many out there who would say such a system would have caused an elitist divide, but surely a system that would have contained both privately run and public hospitals/clinic’s would have a major effect on events today with a vast amount of beds and medical care made available for everyone.

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Christopher O'Brien
About Christopher O'Brien 2590 Articles
Dublin native, writing is a form of art

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