Thursday, 8 November 2012

Questions (66)

Barry Cowen

Question:

66. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Health his views on the latest increase in VHI prices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48939/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

The Deputy is referring to the recent VHI announcement that it is to increase prices by between 2%-3% across most of its plans with effect from 22 November 2012.

VHI sets its own premiums and I am not legally empowered to direct the VHI in any way in relation to its prices. However, the Government is committed to keeping down the cost of health insurance so that it is affordable for as many people as possible.

I have consistently raised the issue of costs with VHI and with the other health insurers and I am determined to address costs in the sector in the interests of consumers.

The VHI has the great majority of less healthy customers in the health insurance market, and as a result, pays out by far the highest proportion of claims in the market. People are living longer with chronic illnesses and this in turn is contributing to increased demand and utilisation of healthcare services.

The Government is committed to keeping down the cost of health insurance so that it is affordable for as many people as possible, and is committed to protecting community rating, whereby everyone pays the same price for the same health insurance product, irrespective of age or gender. A significant degree of support for the cost of health insurance claims by older people is provided for through the Interim Risk Equalisation Scheme which has been in place since 2009. The Programme for Government contains a commitment to put a permanent scheme of risk equalisation in place. This is a key requirement for the existing Private Health Insurance market and is designed to keep health insurance affordable for older persons and to maintain the stability of the market. The Government published the Health Insurance (Amendment) Bill 2012 to give effect to a new Risk Equalisation Scheme to be applied from 1 January 2013 which I will shortly bring before the Oireachtas.