VHI threatened to instigate High Court litigation to defend copyright which it claimed on an indexing system for the schedule of benefits, including codes and descriptions of medical procedures used by other health insurers in the market.
The Medical Independent reports that a rival company informed the Department of Health about the threatened legal action with managing director of Irish Life Health writing that it was a “serious matter” that would “drive up costs within the market”.
“The State insurer, VHI, is now claiming copyright over the schedule of benefits used by all other insurers in the market. This is despite the fact that these schedules have been in use by all other health insurers since competition commenced…
“This schedule of benefits provides codes and a detailed description of medical procedures carried out by medical consultants. As you may be aware the majority of procedure codes included in the schedule of benefits come from the minimum benefit regulations.”
All insurers have typically used the same coding index and clinical indications for administrative consistency.
VHI believes that this is in breach of its copyright.
The standardised codes are licenced from the British-based Clinical Coding and Scheduling Development Group (CCSD) at a cost of €6,000.
Rival health insurers believe that a legal action will force implementation of an alternative coding and that this will result in confusion and increased administration.
The Department of Health has stated its preference that there be “no fragmentation in the schedule of benefits”.
The VHI has said that it bears the costs for maintaining and updating the schedule and that is specialised work is subject to copyright protection.