News Editorial

Thursday 18 September 2014

Editorial: Health woes mount as more abandon cover

Published 04/06/2014 | 02:30

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Spiralling premium costs and six years of austerity have forced thousands to stop paying for insurance and take their chances with the public system. Picture posed: Thinkstock
Spiralling premium costs and six years of austerity have forced thousands to stop paying for insurance and take their chances with the public system. Picture posed: Thinkstock

THERE is an extreme reluctance by consumers to give up their health insurance. Many people have such a strong attachment to private healthcare that they are prepared to make sacrifices in all sorts of other areas to maintain their cover. That was easier to do when car insurance premiums were more costly than the health insurance premiums. But not any more.

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Spiralling premium costs and six years of austerity have forced thousands to stop paying for insurance and take their chances with the public system. This year alone there has been a succession of premium hikes, with some policies rising by 40pc.

All of this is behind the fact that some 21,000 people have stopped paying for private health insurance in the first three months of this year.

And in the past 12 months the numbers no longer paying for a plan from VHI Healthcare, Laya, Aviva or GloHealth amounts to 47,000 people.

If you go back to 2008, when the pressure began to be put on household incomes, the numbers opting out of the private healthcare system totals 266,000.

Just over two million people have a hospital-based healthcare plan, according to the regulator for the sector, the Health Insurance Authority. By the end of the year it is predicted that the number with private insurance will have fallen below two million for the first time.

In an economy where the average disposable income fell by 25pc between 2006 and 2012, it is hardly surprising that so many have exited the system. It is perhaps unusual that so many have managed to hang on to their cover.

All of this should provide a stark warning to the Government and particularly Health Minister James Reilly.

Spending on health is constantly over-budget. The last thing the put-upon public hospital system needs is more people turning away from private hospitals to attend public facilities.

The European Commission noted this week that health expenditure in this country is one of the highest in the EU, despite our relatively young population.

Our inability to curtail spiralling health spending, and the large numbers now dropping private health insurance, will only make matters worse.

Given that, forcing people who have opted not to pay for private health insurance to cough up under planned universal health insurance proposals seems like a tall order.

We're all behind Class of 2014 in their exams

It is a big day for 118,673 Leaving and Junior Certificate candidates. Thanks to the support of their families, teachers, principals, guidance counsellors and friends, the students have reached a significant milestone in the exciting and necessary journey of lifelong learning.

More than 90pc of Junior Certificate candidates will go on to do the Leaving Certificate, while this year sees record applications from school-leavers for third-level study. Education and training options, such as Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses, offer a range of other opportunities.

Understandably, the start of the exams can be a nervous time, but nerves quickly settle once students realise just how much they know and how well prepared they are for the paper. Good advice to candidates and those around them is to avoid post-mortems on the last paper and look ahead, positively, to the next.

Those with any concerns should seek advice and support, of which there will be plenty available in schools and in the wider community. Mental health experts say parents have a crucial role to play in reassuring and supporting their children. Exercise, fresh air, plenty of rest and a good diet are also important in the days and weeks ahead. Congratulations class of 2014, you carry the best wishes of the country with you.

Irish Independent

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