5 November 2021
By Elaine Murphy
20% of people in Ireland have no health insurance, and no medical card – “Letsbuyhealthcare” a Private Health Co-Op – where Co-Op Members (or their employers on their behalf) can “build up their own private healthcare fund by buying €50 Healthcare Coin vouchers” according to the new brand
Letsbuyhealthcare, a new service providing easy access to, and funding of, private healthcare, has launched this week, with four healthcare providers located across Cork. As well as the private hospitals, the Mater Private and Bons Secours, other healthcare providers delivering community healthcare such as the Diabetes Care Centre, and the Clonakilty Family Health Clinic have already signed up. The company expects its network of providers to grow as more customers sign up to the service.
Families or individuals can then use their own dedicated healthcare fund to pay for treatment on the Letsbuyhealthcare portal. The Healthcare Coin product is not-for-profit and any net investment gains on the overall fund (professionally overseen by ILP Pension Trustees DAC – part of the Irish Life Group) will be redistributed back to the Private Health Co-Op members by way of more Healthcare Coin vouchers.
Healthcare providers, employers and people across Cork are now invited to join and participate in the fast-growing Co-Op, which is a “strength in numbers” initiative right across the community.
Prior to launch, during the recent development and test phase, over 100 patients have already used the portal and had the experience of connecting quickly with the right provider to get the treatment needed. The patient feedback has been universally positive.
As the Co-Op membership grows the provider network will also grow. Letsbuyhealthcare is taking a community based, co-operative, approach. The principle that there is strength in numbers will, in time, bring even greater value, choice and simplicity to any self-payer seeking medical treatment and services.
Any commercial arrangements are between healthcare providers and Letsbuyhealthcare so, other than a small joining on fee, there are no annual charges or annual premiums levied on Co-Op Members.
The brainchild of two healthcare industry experts, David Allen, former Director of Finance of the National Treatment Purchase Fund, and John Looney, a former Director with VHI, intend for the Private Health Co-Op to also become an advocate for self-payers.
They have already begun to lobby the Government on behalf of the Private Health Co-Op for an increase in the tax breaks given to employers for any reward vouchers that are exclusively to meet an employee’s healthcare costs.
Speaking at the launch, Managing Director David Allen said; “Now for the first time there is a specific, safe and secure scheme that helps people plan for their own healthcare costs into the future. Everyone can now have their own separate family fund dedicated to private healthcare – and nothing else. Something that is built up over time to meet future routine GP and community based medical services as well as trying to allow for any serious problems that potentially might need a consultation or day-case, inpatient or even a residential stay.
“People can now weigh up the likelihood of the family needing to access either public or private healthcare in the future, the likelihood of needing community or hospital care, the likelihood of needing psychological or physical care, or the likelihood of needing emergency or elective care and then try to decide, plan and budget accordingly, without any concerns that current age or current healthcare history will somehow be penalized.
“Importantly, this can all now be done in a way that is extremely simple and flexible to suit all pockets and can also be topped up by employers availing of tax breaks. It’s about choice. It’s about spreading the cost risk of private healthcare in a fundamentally different way to the traditional model”.
Dr Justin Kwong is a General Practitioner (GP) in Kilkenny. As chair of Community Surgery Ireland (CSI) and a member of the Primary Care Surgical Association (PCSA), he is excited that both associations have been confirmed as service providers with LetsBuyHealthcare; “A variety of common medical conditions ranging from ingrown toenails to benign and suspicious skin lesions are routinely assessed by PCSA and CSI members, GPs who are all proficient in community surgery. Following this assessment, PCSA and CSI members can promptly and efficiently manage these conditions in a convenient Primary Care or GP setting.
“We at the PCSA and CSI wholeheartedly welcome the affiliation with LetsBuyHealthcare, as this presents a pathway for patients to access treatment for these common conditions that do not require a hospital visit. Furthermore, patients can be assessed and managed locally in a timely fashion, without adding to already stretched waiting lists in Irish hospitals.”
Frank Downey, Director ILP Pension Trustees DAC said; “ILP Pension Trustees DAC are pleased to have been appointed to act as Oversight Agent to provide governance oversight and monitoring services in relation to the operation of the new Healthcare Coin Fund.
“ILP will work with the trustees to ensure that the Letsbuyhealthcare Coin Fund has a clear and effective system of governance in line with legislation, best practice and Statutory guidelines and in compliance with all laws and regulations.
ILP Pension Trustees DAC was established in 2006 and is one of Ireland’s leading independent professional trustee firms. It acts as trustee for over 400 pension and life assurance schemes with combined assets of over €1 billion and operates as an independent company in the Irish Life Group. ILP has a dedicated trustee team with qualified legal, actuarial and governance professionals with extensive experience of and expertise in pension schemes and trusteeship.”