Tuesday 16 January 2018

New forum will aim to lower cost of health insurance

Charlie Weston and Eilish O'Regan

Health Minister James Reilly is set to step up his campaign to control health insurance costs by appointing an outside expert to chair a forum of health insurance companies.

It comes amid the continuing war of words between Dr Reilly and health insurers who say charging them for public hospital beds will push up premiums by over 30pc.

It is understood Dr Reilly is now to appoint an independent chair to the health insurance forum which will include insurers and health officials in a bid to secure cost reductions.

Legislation

He is set to have the legislation allowing him to charge for public beds used by private patients from this summer, although he is unlikely to impose the full €1,222 night charge at once and is expected to phase it in.

The four health insurers have reacted furiously to the move and warned it could see the average family hit with an additional €750 in annual premiums.

It comes on top of two price hikes from the four insurers in the past six months. VHI, Laya, Aviva and Glo said yesterday that Dr Reilly's plans will mean the premium price spiral will get worse.

However, it is understood Dr Reilly is to use the forum to "knock heads together" to tackle key areas where costs could be reduced.

Michael Horan of the Insurance Ireland Health Council, which represents the four insurance firms, said: "The inescapable fact is if the Government presses ahead with its plan to implement these charges it will exacerbate the current price spiral and risks destabilising our system of community-rated health insurance."

'Scaremongering'

Community rating is the system where everyone pays the same price for the same policy, irrespective of their age and the state of their health.

And Mr Horan took issue with comments from Dr Reilly that health insurers were "scaremongering" when they claimed that premiums would go up by 30pc.

A small number of beds in public hospitals are designated for private use, and insurers pay the full cost of using these beds.

Mr Horan rejected Dr Reilly's call for the insurers to avoid the premium hike by doing more to cut their claims costs.

Claims costs are rising because record numbers of younger, healthier people are dropping out of the market, the insurance group said.

Irish Independent

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