Wednesday 22 October 2014

Families face new struggle over health cover hikes

Published 08/12/2012 | 05:00

It promised equal access to care for all, regardless of income or insurance status.

But this remains a pipe dream and the latest hike in the levy is because of legislation that Health Minister James Reilly is currently guiding through the Dail.

This aims to put a permanent levy system in place to ensure that older people do not end up paying more than younger people for a similar health policy.

There is already a temporary levy of €285 on every adult's health policy, with a €95 charge for children. The new rules are set to see the levies rise by up to €180 for a family of two adults and two children.

People who opt for health plans that restrict them to getting treatment in a public hospital only will have smaller levies imposed.

Premiums

Health experts have warned that the higher levies will spark a new round of premium hikes. Since 2009, the cost of health cover has doubled.

Only last month, the State's second-largest health insurer, Laya, raised the cost of its premiums by up to 13pc.

The levies are part of a formal risk-equalisation scheme to replace the current one. The State has promised the EU that it will put such a scheme in place by the start of next year.

Risk-equalisation is a way of ensuring that everyone pays the same for health insurance, no matter what age they are and irrespective of the state of their health. In a complicated part of the new risk-equalisation scheme, insurers will also get a rebate of €75 for every night that people spend in hospital.

Much of the funds raised from the levy will go to the VHI as it has the vast majority of older customers.

Insurance expert Dermot Goode said insurers were sure to pass on the cost of the new higher levies to consumers.

And he warned it was likely that the €65m which the Government expects to recoup from health insurers would push up premium costs. The Department of Health has said that one of the changes would involve higher charges on insurers for using public hospitals.

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Irish Independent

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