CONSUMERS who switched from the VHI when the company announced price hikes of up to 45pc at the start of the year are still being charged premiums even though they have cancelled their cover, it has emerged.
It is understood that so far this year 40,000 people switched to Aviva, mainly from the VHI, with thousands of others moving to Quinn Healthcare.
A number of people contacted the Irish Independent yesterday to explain how they have switched from the VHI to other providers but the VHI has continued to charge them fortnightly and monthly premiums.
A teacher explained how she has repeatedly asked her employer, the Department of Education, and the VHI to stop the deductions from her salary. She is paid fortnightly.
The teacher, who also pays for the cover of her partner through her wages, estimates that she has now been overcharged €450 by the insurer.
She was on Plan D, which has risen in price by 21pc. Plan D policyholders saw annual premiums rise from €1,931 to €2,337 per adult from the beginning of this month.
VHI staff she has spoken to keep promising to stop the payments, while her employer insists it has not received any notification from the VHI.
The state-owned health insurer admitted yesterday that it has been inundated with customer queries since it announced the bumper price rises. It promised to refund anyone who has been overcharged.
A spokeswoman said January was normally busy as this was when many of its 1.3 million customers renewed their policies but this year was extra busy because of the hikes. Extra staff have been drafted in to deal with the backlog.
"There can be issues relating to direct debits if a customer cancels. However, we are working through this," the spokeswoman said.
The company advised anyone who has switched and who pays by direct debit to contact their bank in writing to cancel it.
The VHI said on January 6 it was putting up premiums by between 15pc and 45pc. And, at the end of last month, consumers were left reeling after Aviva confirmed it was planning to hike all its premiums by 14pc on March 1.
The rise is 10 times the rate of inflation and comes at a time when consumers are being pounded by income tax changes and the universal social charge.
Quinn Healthcare hiked its premiums by an average of 8pc, with some premiums rising by 25pc just before Christmas.
Large numbers of consumers are now understood to be ditching their health cover because of the pressure on household finances, while thousands of others are keeping health insurance but dropping down to lower-priced plans.