WHAT should we make of Health Minister James Reilly's decision to follow the VHI's advice and ignore his own watchdog when it comes to health insurance costs? While our political masters must ignore recommendations from time to time, they should also explain their actions.
The one recommendation he listens to – the VHI's – should be treated with scrutiny. It is our largest health insurer, is a state-owned monopoly, is subsidised by taxpayers and is less open to a reform of the system than other insurers.
Setting prices for health insurance is no easy task. That is why we have a quango to make these decisions. Any move to keep premium costs down for the elderly will be welcomed by a segment of the population who also happen to be enthusiastic voters, but is it wise? By driving young and healthy people out, Dr Reilly is hastening the collapse of the entire system.
That may be politically expedient but it does not serve anyone well. Gains made by hiking the cost of basic policies will be far outweighed by damage caused by young people opting out. Dr Reilly needs to ask himself whether he wants young people to take out health insurance. If the answer is yes, insurers must be able to offer attractive plans at reasonable prices.