Press Release

Statement by Mary Harney TD, Minister for Health and Children on the Private Health Insurance Market

The Minister for Health & Children, Mary Harney, T.D. said today that the Government had announced a comprehensive strategy for the private health insurance market last May.

“The private health insurance market in Ireland is very complex and there are no easy solutions. The strategy announced last May addressed all of the issues involved including choice, competition and the financing of the market.

“It was built around one core policy aim – to protect community rating in order to ensure that private health insurance is affordable for older people.

“The first steps to implement that policy have been taken which include the process of restructuring the market and disposing of the VHI.

“The introduction of a comprehensive robust, risk equalisation scheme to support the core policy of community rating is in preparation and will be implemented, and this will further support competition in the market.

“As the strategy sets out, the Government will ensure that the VHI is regulated alongside other players in the market and will meet all necessary capital requirements.”

Some of the other features of the Government strategy include :

  • The preparation of a new set of minimum benefits regulations for health insurance, so as to bring primary care and other services into the set of benefits that insurers must offer.
  • The implementation of other measures to enhance competition and choice in the insurance market, such as the VHI opening travel insurance benefits to non-members.
  • The implementation of lifetime community rating, so that there is an incentive for people to take up health insurance earlier in their adult life, rather than later.

The Minister would emphasise for consumers that there is certainly choice in the market and all plans are available to all consumers of every age group in the market.

For those who have insurance , she reminded customers that there are absolutely no penalties for, or barriers to, switching between companies.

The Minister said that in a further move to protect community rating , which ensures that health insurance remains affordable to older people, the Government had recently increased tax credits to support older customers of private health insurance companies.

She pointed out that the increase in private charges in public hospitals reflects long-standing Government policy to reduce and ultimately eliminate any public subsidy for private patients in public hospitals.