Health insurance costs 'unsustainable'
People Before Profit TD Joan Collins said yesterday that health insurance prices are already unsustainable and that the latest government measures will put further pressure on the system.
"Pushing up prices puts more pressure on the public health service," she said.
The Government has repeatedly played down suggestions that charging insurers for public beds will drive up health insurance costs for consumers. Health Minister James Reilly dismissed the claims as scaremongering.
And Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said last month that the measure will yield €60m, which does not translate to a 15 per cent increase in cost to insurers.
But Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has already warned that the current rise in premiums could spell the death-knell for the private health insurance market.
Elderly people are being forced to drop their insurance policies in an escalating "crisis" over massive increase in the cost of their premiums.
The lobby group, Age Action, said it is fielding a growing number of calls from older people who have been forced to give up their health insurance as well as life assurance because recent increases have made them too expensive. It warned of a crisis in the insurance sector for older people.
The warning follows projections this weekend from the four main health insurers that the Government's proposal to charge insurers of private patients for public beds will cause premiums to increase by 30 per cent.
The insurers blame the huge hike on proposals contained in a new health bill to charge insurers if private patients are placed in a public bed. Insurers could be charged as much as €1,000 if one of their members is placed into a public hospital bed.
Dr Reilly has promised to introduce the charge on a phased basis and has dismissed predictions that premiums could rise by 30 per cent. He said that insurers should do more to cut their costs.
A report by economist Colm McCarthy projected that health insurance costs could rise by 25 per cent by 2015. Insurance Ireland, which represents main insurers in Ireland, has predicted that a 30 per cent increase could force more than 300,000 subscribers out of the health insurance market.