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Forum to tackle health-insurance prices

A new forum is to be set up to try to tackle the rising price of health insurance.

The establishment of the consultative forum was agreed after Health Minister James Reilly met with insurance companies in the wake of his Budget decision to charge more for private facilities in public hospitals.

Insurers warned that this will lead to huge premium hikes -- but the minister insisted they had scope for savings to reduce the burden on customers.

A spokesman for the minister said he met with Declan Moran, acting chief executive of the VHI; Donal Clancy, managing director of Quinn Healthcare; and Siobhan Fay, managing director of Aviva Health.

The new forum, comprising insurers and the Department of Health, will have no powers to stop any company from hiking its prices.

The spokesman said: "The meeting, the first such meeting since the recent Budget, discussed a range of matters and resulted in clear agreement that all would work cooperatively in driving down costs related to health insurance. There was agreement, too, that savings could be achieved in terms of services provided by both public and private hospitals.

"Mr Reilly indicated that he was happy to hear any proposals from the insurance companies which would result in lower costs for the health insurance sector."

The Health Insurance Consultative Forum will also allow various parties with an opportunity to consider certain issues related to government moves to implement its policy of universal health insurance (UHI).

It has been promised that this will be in place from 2016 and will end the public-private divide, with all citizens covered by insurance.

"The Government has made clear that the future delivery of health services under UHI, will require competing insurance companies driving efficient, cost-effective delivery of high-quality healthcare.

"The forum will allow the insurance companies to consult with the Department of Health on many significant changes on the road to the full implementation of Universal Health Insurance," added the spokesman.

Irish Independent