Government plans tax refunds for private health insurance in Budget

The upcoming budget will include tax refunds for people who pay for private health insurance, Health Parliamentary Secretary Chris Fearne announced. 

Health Parliamentary Secretary Chris Fearne
Health Parliamentary Secretary Chris Fearne
People have their say on waiting lists. Video Ray Attard
People speak about the service at Mater Dei. Video Ray Attard

The government is considering introducing tax refunds for people who pay for private health insurance, parliamentary secretary for health Chris Fearne announced on Monday’s edition of Reporter.

The new scheme will be included in the upcoming budget and is intended to encourage more people to start paying for private healthcare, with the added incentive of tax refunds.

If effected, it will be a shift from public to private healthcare that is part-financed by taxpayers’ money.

In April, the government agreed to pay for MRI scans at two private hospitals, the St James and Da Vinci clinics, in an attempt to reduce the waiting lists at Mater Dei hospital. Over 3,800 people were on the MRI waiting list back then.

Although Fearne has previously not divulged how many scans the private hospitals would be carrying out, on Reporter he said the government was looking to get into more such public private partnerships, even with foreign hospitals.

But St James Hospital chairman Josie Muscat has claimed that MRI scans at private hospitals remain “under-utilised”.

“Private hospitals are at the crossroads,” Muscat warned, claiming that “a high level of poverty” was the reason why so many patients still opt for free public healthcare.

On his part, Fearne added that a lot of pressure could be lifted off Mater Dei’s national healthcare burden by improving Malta’s community care, a system through which patients can be treated in their own homes.

Josie Muscat also claimed that a lot of healthcare funds were being wasted on “abusive” – or unnecessary – hospital tests, where patients are made to take a lot of medical tests that they don’t need.

Shadow health minister Claudio Grech said that around 7 million blood tests were carried out last year alone

Fearne also said that studies into ‘care pathways’ had begun, in a bid to introduce systems where patients’ treatments will be tracked to ensure that health professionals will know what stage of treatment they are at. 

Live current affairs programme Reporter is presented by Saviour Balzan and produced by MediaToday. The programme’s new format includes lawyer Ramona Frendo as a resident opinionist.

Reporter is aired live every Monday at 9.45pm on TVM 1

Follow Reporter on Facebook or on Twitter @ReporterMalta