Private hospitals have been accused of "appalling" behaviour after it emerged they are imposing new charges for Covid tests for people before they can attend the hospitals.
The fees being imposed are between €75 for those who have to have a day procedure in a private hospital, to €250 for in-patient procedures.
The new fees come, despite the private hospitals benefiting from a controversial deal where they were effectively taken over by the State for three months this year. Health insurers are currently not covering the new Covid-19 test charge.
People with health insurance have been shocked to learn of the new charge.
Wexford-based Jason Sheridan was told by the Beacon Hospital in Dublin that it was charging €250 for what it described as a Covid test. Vhi is not covering the cost.
His seven-year-old daughter Clodagh is due to have grommets inserted next week.
Mr Sheridan said the imposition of the charge was "an absolute scandal" particularly as the private hospitals had benefited from the State deal earlier this year.
The details of that deal have not been revealed but it is understood the bill for three months could be €338m.
Chairman of the Consumers' Association Michael Kilcoyne said: "It is appalling to impose this charge given that the private hospitals got so much money from the HSE.
"It shows total disrespect to the taxpayer."
Health insurance expert Dermot Goode said a number of private hospitals were imposing the new charges.
They range from €75 for a day procedure, to between €150 and €250 for in-patient procedures.
Talks have begun between insurers and the private hospitals but there is no agreement on insurers covering the new costs, he said.
A spokesman for the Private Hospitals Association said private hospitals were forced to incur extra costs to meet stringent new public health guidelines, including deep cleaning and the use of PPE.
"The Private Hospitals Association considers that any additional costs that may be incurred by individual private patients as a result of these new measures should in principle be absorbed by the health insurers, and its members are currently in discussion with the respective insurers to that end."
Beacon Hospital said Laya has agreed to cover the cost of the Covid test.
The hospital is engaging with Vhi and Irish Life to get them to cover the cost, it said.