Minister for Health Mary Harney has said that she is looking at the possibility of establishing an independent review body that would recommend fee scales for self-employed professionals, including dentists.
Ms Harney is considering this as an option following the furore surrounding the Government’s assertion that both EU and national competition legislation prohibits the State from being able to negotiate fees with bodies such as the IDA.
Ms Harney suggested that the proposed body would be similar to the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector, which makes recommendations to the Government on top-level pay in the public sector.
The Minister told the Irish Times that under existing legislation, the State could negotiate on price individually with each professional but that this was not a practical solution.
She went on to say that, based upon legal advice to the Government: ‘This is the future for self-employed professionals’.
In the run-up to Christmas the Labour Party sought to amend the Competition Act in the Dáil with a view to allowing the State to negotiate with representative bodies for dentists and other affected groups. However, Ms Harney said she believed that it would not be a positive move to change the legislation, saying: ‘These provisions are there to protect consumers and there is an EU-wide dimension as well as a domestic dimension.’