Hospitals given go-ahead to charge for non-core services

Political debate sparked after health minister says treatment and care at hospitals must stay free but that fees for “peripheral services” are acceptable

The free health care model has come under scrutiny after the health minister, Astrid Krag (Socialistisk Folkeparti), confirmed that hospitals were within their rights to charge for non-essential services.

Her statement came after she was questioned about whether she felt it was acceptable that hospitals charged for things such as photographs of ultrasounds, food for relatives staying with patients and to assist undertakers putting bodies in coffins.

The fees are politically sensitive as the left-wing, in particular, is fearful that they are the first stage on a slippery slope toward privatised health care.

Peripheral services
Krag argued, however, that the fees are only permitted for non-core services that are not related to treatment and are a sign that hospitals are being careful with tax payer funds.

“That is why it’s okay for hospitals to charge for peripheral services,” Krag told Berlingske newspaper.

READ MORE: Criticsm of hospital fees

The fees have been criticised, not least because there are no official guidelines and because they vary from hospital to hospital.

“There ought to be a single set of clear rules for these fees,” MP Karina Adsbøl (DF) told Berlginske, adding that a number of the fees should be abolished.

MP Sophie Løhde (Venstre) also argued that the government is hypocritical for allowing hospitals to charge for services while maintaining a political platform that calls for unhindered free health care.

“It’s paradoxical that people have to pay in one hospital but don’t have to in the neighbouring healthcare region,” Løhde said, adding that her party wants a study into which services are being charged by which hospitals.

READ MORE: Hospitals ask pregnant mothers to bring in bedding

While Krag said she had no plans to charge for treatment or surgery, the far-left Enhedslisten argued that patients shouldn’t also be charged for so-called peripheral services.

Health care tax
“I don’t understand why she thinks it’s a peripheral service to put the body of a person who died in hospital in a coffin,” MP Stine Brix told Berlingske.

“We already pay a relatively high level of tax and so we shouldn’t expect to have to take out or credit cards in hospital.”

The Midtjylland regional council charges 350 kroner to help undertakers put bodies in coffins. It was the first regional council to release a list of fees that its hospitals charge and will soon standardise its fees so all the hospitals it operates charge the same for the same services.