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'I'm forced to choose between life assurance and medication'

Tom Green (58) from The Glen in Cork city is one of the thousands facing massive hikes.

A single man who lives alone, he says he will have no choice but to cut back on his medication or give up his life assurance.

Tom says he has felt very "worried and depressed" since the announcement of hikes.

He is on VHI's Plan B Options scheme, which currently costs him €69 a month, but he also has to pay more than €100 a month for medications to treat his high blood pressure and cholesterol.

VHI's Plan A customers are facing hikes of 15pc, but Plan B, C, D and E options will see their charges rise by between 21pc and 45pc.

"I pay life assurance every month so that I will be able to afford my own burial, so I can't give that up; now the health insurance is going up by as much as 45pc, so it is inevitable that I will have to give one of them up. Maybe cut back on my tablets."

Mr Green was a lifelong member of the PDs until its dissolution.

"Where is the minister for health now? A lot of older people feel very discriminated against and believe this is simply to price us out of the market."

Older people's support group Age Action Ireland said the increases would put the cost of private health insurance beyond the reach of many older people.

"It is precisely the same cohort of older people who were hit badly in the recent budget, those retired on modest public or civil servant pensions. Many of these will find it difficult to move to another provider and many may also have lost their entitlement to the medical card," a spokesman said.

The Irish Senior Citizens Parliament said the increases would be "the final straw for many older people".

Mairead Hayes, CEO of the parliament, said: "It is only natural that as a person ages they will need appropriate care. Most have paid health insurance over a number of years and did not resent the reciprocity and solidarity involved. The Minister for Health and Children must show leadership and move to resolve this issue immediately."

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