Nationalist MP Jean-Pierre Farrugia has called for bipartisan talks on measures to encourage holders of healthcare insurance to use private services for non-urgent procedures, instead of Mater Dei Hospital.

He said the talks should aim to ensure easier access to Mater Dei Hospital services for people who are 'uninsurable' – such as the elderly and those who have pre-existing conditions.

His call was made in an opinion piece in The Sunday Times yesterday

Questioned further today and asked if he was advocating that government health services should not be available free of charge for people having a high income, Dr Farrugia explained that what he was advocating was that people holding private health insurance should be encouraged to use it, instead of the free services at Mater Dei.

"Many people are using Mater Dei Hospital despite having private healthcare insurance coverage, and they get a bonus for doing so from their insurer," he said.

"What the government should consider, is to introduce its own incentives to reward people who use their health insurance to go private instead of Mater Dei."

In many, many cases, he said, policy holders were only using their health insurance to privately call for diagnosis on consultants who also worked at Mater Dei Hospital. Their cases were then fast tracked for treatment at Mater Dei - not necessarily through wrongdoing, but because the fact that the consultants had seen their patients meant they were more aware of their condition. Meanwhile, people who had no health insurance waited months to see their consultants and get treatment.

Dr Farrugia said he wished to see policy holders use private health services for the full process of non-urgent, minor or non-complex procedures, thus freeing up Mater Dei.

Using their private insurance for this purpose should make them eligible for some kind of government incentive, in a system which, he said, was similar to that employed in several states in Australia.

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