VHI sees membership rise for first time in eight years

For the first time in eight years, the VHI recorded an increase in membership in 2015, a year which saw a €9m reduction in its after-tax surplus, from €54.5m in 2014 to €45.5m.

Nonetheless, it closed the year with an improved reserves position of €521m, up 12% on 2014.

The State-owned insurer said the strengthening of free reserves was attributable to key business initiatives in recent years, “including improvements in claims and provider management”.

Gross earned premium for 2015 totalled €1.428bn, slightly down on the €1.451bn it achieved in the previous year.

Total gross claims paid in 2015 came to €1.378bn, up 10% on a year earlier.

VHI blamed “the full effect of significant increases in public hospital charges introduced by the government in 2014” for the increase in claims “as well as other factors including increased demand for treatment and procedures from our ageing membership”.

In fact, VHI chief executive John O’Dwyer questioned the future sustainability of Ireland’s healthcare model given the growth in the number of over-65s, expected to reach 1m in less than 20 years.

“There is an urgent need for policymakers, insurers, and healthcare providers to work together to plan for the future and adapt our models of healthcare to tackle our ageing population,” said Mr O’Dwyer.

VHI now has 1.068m customers. Some 926,000 claims were processed by the health insurer in 2015, with the highest expenditures going on cancer and related care at €188.2m, the heart and circulatory system at €159.8m, and orthopaedic care at €147.3m.

Last year saw VHI Insurance DAC authorised as a non-life insurance company, and VHI Healthcare Ltd as an insurance intermediary by the Central Bank.

The newly authorised entities commenced trading on July 31.

Securing authorisation placed VHI on the same regulatory footing as others operating in the market and “facilitated” its move into new markets such as life insurance, an offering it introduced in May 2016.

Mr O’Dwyer said securing authorisation “was a major milestone”.

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