News | Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Private health insurances “a farce”- John Dalli

James Debono

Private medical insurance was described as a “farce” by Social Policy Minister John Dalli during a business breakfast held yesterday.
Dalli also described the practice of compensating patients for taking a bed in Mater Dei instead of getting the same service in a private hospital as “day light robbery.”
“They push you to a bed in Mater Dei and pay you 20 pounds. Whisking people into Mater Dei day is light robbery… We are being taken for a ride.”
John Dalli lashed out at private insurances when interviewed by journalist Vanessa Macdonald during a business breakfast organised by internet news portal
His comments were not taken lightly by Catherine Calleja - Chairperson of the Health Section of the Malta Insurance Association.
”Dismissing our industry as a farce is unfair,” rebutted Calleja.
She claimed that the cash benefit for people staying in public hospitals represented less than 1 per cent of insurance claims.
But Calleja agreed with Dalli that patients should not be compensated for staying at Mater Dei instead of a private hospital.
“This system is a white elephant and it should not be there,” she said.
But according to Calleja the insurance industry is not to blame for the inclusion of such claims in schemes offered in certain job contracts.
She also defended the track record of insurance companies who for the past years
have taken upon themselves the burden of providing essential medicines like Herceptin despite their unavailability from the national health scheme.
“We have been paying claims for medicines like Herceptin for five years.”
Herceptin - a drug used in cancer treatment has only been added to the government’s list of free medicines in the past weeks.
John Dalli passed the buck to the Finance Ministry for the government’s failure to pay back €30 million to medicine importers.
“I do not have a mint... The gate keeper is the Finance Ministry. I am not saying this to pass the buck. We have an arrangement to pay after 150 days and we should honour it,” Dalli said.
But medicine importer Reggie Fava insisted that his category was promised by the Prime Minister that payments will be made in 120 days.
“150 days is an eternity in the business world. Our original demand was that payments are made in 90 days and even 120 days is a long time.”
He compared medicine importers to a son who is kicked by his own father when begging for help in difficult times.
Fava also defended medicine importers from the charge that they are putting up prices.
“We live in the world. We are not philanthropists and we employ 1000 persons who have to be paid by the end of each month.”
But Dalli begged to differ insisting that a rethink is needed with regards to medicine prices.
“In some cases medicines are more costly than abroad and consumers are being asked,” said Dalli.



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21 January 2009

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