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More bad news for VHI customers

It isn't even January yet and we are already getting the first glimpses of the annual VHI price increase.

The state-owned health insurer is jacking up the price of its corporate policies by an average of 13.5pc.

These increases are certain to be followed next month by similar price hikes in the plans targeted at individuals and families.

And as if that was enough to be worried about, these latest increases make no provision to the changes introduced by Health Minister James Reilly in the Budget, when he announced plans to force private patients to pay for public hospital beds when they are admitted to A&E units.

The VHI estimates that this measure could on its own increase the cost of premiums by up to a further 50pc.

With the cost of even basic cover for a married couple with two children now comfortably exceeding €2,000 a year, private health insurance is rapidly becoming an unaffordable luxury for many people.

Already 123,000 people have allowed their cover to lapse and will now have to be treated by the public health service.

Further price increases will turn the current trickle of people giving up their private health insurance cover into a flood with serious implications for the Government's health budget.