During the election, the new party controlling the Irish government, Fine Gael, slammed the VHI decision to increase its premium for its corporate plans. The party's health spokesperson Dr James Reilly said it will be yet another squeeze on customers of the State-backed health insurer, “Just weeks ago we learned that the VHI was increasing the cost of policies by up to 45%. And now it seems certain that their corporate plans are set to jump by up to 23%. Corporate plans may be aimed at companies, but many savvy consumers have also taken them on individually in a bid to save on the annual cost of health insurance. 50,000 VHI customers will now be hit by an increase of more than €140 a year. Fine Gael will deliver a system of universal health insurance, where everyone will be covered. That means every Irish person will have equal access to all the health care they need."
Under the party's Universal Health Insurance (UHI) plan, all the population would be insured for equal access to public and private hospital and GP care in a one-tier system, with access based on medical need and not ability to pay. The system would be regulated by the State, but much of it would be run by private insurance companies. Those on lower incomes will be totally covered or subsidised by the State for the cost of insurance, while others will pay insurance contributions, the levels of which have not yet been specified by Fine Gael.
However, the party claims increased competition in the system and rigorous cost-monitoring will help control the price of insurance contributions to the universal scheme for those who do not get subsidised cover. It points out that similar health reforms in the Netherlands have led to a 7% drop in insurance premiums.
VHI has been active in publicly declaring its total opposition to being restructured as suggested by a recent government paper, and in delaying becoming a fully competitive independent insurer as demanded by the EU rules. It is likely to find the new party less tolerant of what it does and says, than the outgoing government.
International health insurance news: 3 March 2011