The BMA is angry that private healthcare firm BUPA has told consultants that reimbursement rates have been reduced.
The BMA private practice committee asked for a meeting with BUPA to discuss the issue, but the company refused.
Consultants have been told that BUPA will pay only half the usual reimbursement for some procedures, forcing patients to pay for treatment out of their own pockets.
PPC chair Derek Machin said: ‘This is a reduction in benefits for patients. There has not been any increase by and large for these reimbursements for 20 years, and they have now cut some of them by 50 per cent, leading to a shortfall for patients.
‘If BUPA has an expectation that consultants should cut their fees then they should be [corrected about] that … The BMA advice to consultants is to send their bills to the patients, not to the insurer, because it is the patients that they have the relationship with.’
London consultant rheumatologist Stephanie Kaye Barrett told a recent PPC meeting: ‘Patients are really angry. They are asking “what can we do about it? Who can we write to?”.’
BUPA health and well-being medical director Annabel Bentley said: ‘To ensure that BUPA reimbursement reflects changes in medical practice — in particular, the level of skill, medical risk, time and complexity required — we adjust what we pay to ensure consultants are appropriately reimbursed, and we keep health insurance affordable for our members. Many of the 2,000 procedures in BUPA’s Schedule of Procedures have not been adjusted for more than 30 years.’
• The Competition Commission’s investigation into private healthcare in the UK has published its issues statement, plus details of questions it will be asking and its approach to those questions.