I have consistently emphasised the need for much greater cost control in the private health insurance industry so that premiums are affordable for as many people as possible. My Department and the Health Insurance Authority monitor the factors that contribute to costs on an ongoing basis.
The health insurance market is challenged by factors such as an ageing population, a reduction in numbers holding private health insurance and constant pressures on claims costs. However, I am determined to address these issues and to promote a sustainable private health insurance market as we move to UHI.
I appointed an independent chair to work with health insurers, the HIA and my own Department, to identify effective strategies for costs management. Mr. Pat McLoughlin's first report, published at the end of December, made a number of important recommendations now being pursued by insurers, the HSE and my Department. These recommendations include measures to control costs, greatly improve clinical audit, streamline claims processing and address fraud, waste and abuse in the industry.
As recommended by Mr. McLoughlin, I am also looking favourably at the scope for introducing Lifetime Community Rating and at other measures to encourage younger people to buy health insurance. Work on Phase II of Mr. McLoughlin's report, which will deal further with the factors driving costs in health insurance, is progressing well and will be completed as soon as possible.
The Government remains committed to keeping down the cost of private health insurance in the transition to Universal Health Insurance.