Kenny: Health insurers need to look at own costs

Kenny: Health insurers need to look at own costs
Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has suggested health insurers could make savings themselves to prevent price hikes for consumers.

The Taoiseach's comments follow the Government's announcment yesterday of a stamp duty hike on some health insurance policies, which is estimated could add up to €108 to a policy for two adults and two children.

It also comes on top of a cut in tax credits for health insurance products.

But as Mr Kenny came under fire from Fianna Fáil in the Dáil today, he said health insurers need to look at their own costs.

"Why is it in 2013 that we are still paying the same charge for procedures that used to take quite a long time and require days in hospital 20 years ago, but can now be done in a relatively short time," the Taoiseach asked.

"Cataracts can be done in 20 minutes. Why is it that the costs are the same? What's going on here."

Health Minister James Reilly yesterday announced the hike in stamp duty on "advanced cover" health policies.

It is feared that this latest rise in the cost to premiums will make private health care unaffordable for more people - meaning a higher reliance on the state for public healthcare.

But Labour TD for Meath-East Dominic Hannigan says the purpose of the hike is to target those who can afford to pay more.

"This increase in cost affects those who have got advanced cover; anyone who's got non-advanced cover, standard cover, they won't be impacted by this," Deputy Hannigan said.

"The intention of this measure....is to try to bring in risk equalisation in the health insurance market, so that we target those benefits that those who need them most."

Some 250,000 people are estimaged to have given up health insurance in Ireland since 2008.

"That number is big and it's probably about 6,000 a month," according to Charlie Weston, Personal Finance Editor with the Irish Independent.

"But what's more worrying is the type of people who have given up health insurance tend to be the younger, healthier people who makes less claims," he added.

"That unbalances the whole system and you end up with too many older people who make big claims.

"The very ones you need in there to subsidise and keep the thing going are the ones who cant' afford it."

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