Health board calls debt col­lec­tors in

Auckland City Harbour News - - News - By Scott Morgan

Debt col­lec­tors have been called in to help re­coup hospi­tal bills from for­eign pa­tients not el­i­gi­ble for free health­care.

One case was re­ferred to col­lec­tion firm Baycorp in Fe­bru­ary by the Auck­land Dis­trict Health Board for $157,000 care for a baby.

Chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer Roger Jar­rold says in­el­i­gi­ble pa­tients cost $16 mil­lion a year, al­though some pay up through col­lec­tion ef­forts.

Cases lodged with Baycorp, which is used by the health board to col­lect debt, have a 10 to 15 per­cent suc­cess rate.

Mr Jar­rold says the board is al­ways im­prov­ing sys­tems to iden­tify in­el­i­gi­ble pa­tients.

But any­one who ar­rives at Auck­land hospi­tal with an acute prob­lem will be treated first and asked for pay­ment later.

If money is not re­couped, the board can dip into a $1.7m fund from the Health Min­istry. Mr Jar­rold says that’s a mat­ter of “con­stant ne­go­ti­a­tion” with the min­istry.

“Part of the is­sue is we are in the cen­tre of Auck­land.

“You get the likes of tourists stay­ing in Auck­land di­rected to the main city hospi­tal.”

Refugees As Sur­vivors chief ex­ec­u­tive Gary Poole says refugees are cov­ered by the health sys­tem.

But he says asy­lum seek­ers, who land in New Zealand and claim refugee sta­tus, are not cov­ered.

Mr Poole says if an asy­lum seeker be­comes sick, they work with the health boards to ar­range treat­ment.

But he un­der­stands there’s a limit to what health boards can do for asy­lum seek­ers and other mi­grants.

“We un­der­stand the DHBs’ prob­lems. They can’t pro­vide treat­ment for the whole world. As a tax­payer do you want the pol­icy to be open door?”

Refugee and Mi­grant Ser­vice ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Mary Daw­son agrees it is a “thorny” is­sue for health boards and for­eign­ers who can’t pay their med­i­cal bills.

“It’s a sit­u­a­tion that can cre­ate a lot of pain and suf­fer­ing for peo­ple. But a rem­edy is not clear,” she says.

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