Wednesday 18 October 2017

Families to fork out extra €48 as VHI hikes rates

Charlie Weston Personal Finance Editor

A SECOND price hike in VHI healthcare premiums takes effect today, meaning a family with the popular Parents & Kids plan will have endured a premium increase of €380 so far this year.

The VHI defended the move, arguing that it was losing money on health insurance.

Today's hike of 2pc will impact on most plans offered by the state-owned insurer and comes just months after rises of between 15pc and 45pc.

The latest rise means the annual premium for a family of two adults and two children on the Parents & Kids plan will jump by €48 to €2,588; this is on top of a hike of €331 that took effect for those renewing from February this year.

VHI has also imposed penalties on anyone who tries to break out of their healthcare policy inside a year.

The penalties can be as high as a full year's premium or the cost of the €205 a year levy imposed on policies by the Government, director of Irish Health Insurance Patrick Brennan said.

This means a family attempting to switch to another insurer before their policy is a year old could end up facing a penalty of €321, Mr Brennan said.

A spokeswoman for the VHI said yesterday its health insurance business continued to be loss-making and the additional revenue was required to ensure that VHI Healthcare could continue to fund the healthcare needs of its customers.

Costs

She added that a decision by Health Minister James Reilly recently to increase the number of private beds in several Dublin hospitals would hike its customers' healthcare costs by at least €15m annually.

And it emerged yesterday that Aviva will make people pay the first €2,000 when they make claims for orthopaedic procedures like hip replacements in private and hi-tech hospitals.

This is similar to a move by the VHI which earlier this year said it would only cover 80pc of claims for orthopaedic and ophthalmic procedures.

Mr Brennan said the moves by Aviva and the VHI to exclude certain procedures from full cover was an attempt to isolate and exclude older people who were more expensive to cover.

The new rules for Aviva are set to apply to most plans and come into effect from the start of next year. Quinn Healthcare is now likely to follow the lead of its competitors and restrict cover for procedures that are more likely to be carried out on older people.

Mr Brennan said some 800,0000 of the two million people who have private health insurance would be renewing their policies in the next four months.

He said that with 187 plans in the market from the three providers, it was becoming increasingly difficult for consumers to work out what they were covered for, and where to find the best value.

Irish Independent

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