| 1.6°C Dublin

Cherry-picking health insurance customers

The reaction of the different health insurance companies to the 40pc increase in the levy which compensates those with large numbers of older subscribers, ie VHI, at the expense of those with a disproportionate number of younger customers, ie Quinn and Aviva, spoke volumes.

While the VHI welcomed the move, Quinn and Aviva were loud in their criticisms.

A basic principle of the Irish health insurance market is risk equalisation, which means that everyone, regardless of age or state of health, pays the same price for the same policy.

However, ever since the market was opened up to competition in 1996, the VHI has argued that its rivals have been "cherry-picking" younger customers, who, because they tend to be healthier are more profitable, leaving the VHI with the older, sicker and thus less profitable customers.

The fact that VHI, with a 57pc overall market share, has 91pc of all over-80s on its books, would seem to add credence to these claims.

If Quinn and Aviva want to rebut accusation of "cherry-picking" then they should, as VHI already does, publish their accounts. It is only by doing so that their objections to the levy increase can be taken seriously.