Levies 'force young to drop insurance'
on 12/09/2012 00:00:00
Mr Clancy said: "At the moment, the market is basically unstable... This price spiral is of huge concern to the industry.
"The VHI is the largest provider in the market. It is a statutory body whose board is appointed by the minister for health. That results in the absence of a level playing field."
While he argued that it was fair to demand different premiums for different age groups entering the health insurance market, Mr Clancy agreed that Ireland's tradition of inter-generational solidarity should be respected and adhered to.
The theme of inter-generational solidarity formed the focus of the forum which was chaired by Michael Buckley, adjunct professor of UCC's school of economics. The implications of changes proposed by Health Minister James Reilly was addressed by a variety of speakers. Others included Fergus Clancy, CEO of the Mater Private Group; Deirdre McHugh of the Competition Authority; Jack Nagle, CEO of Alpha Primary Care; and Brian Turner from the Health Economics Group at UCC.
Representatives of the Competition Authority and the health insurance market agreed that the principle of inter-generational solidarity was a proud one worth preserving.
"The notion that the older you get, the more you should pay is not on," Mr Clancy told delegates.. "We should be proud of where we stand on this and ensure this principle is not eroded."
His views were echoed by Deirdre McHugh. Fairness to older consumers was a prime principle that had never been questioned, she said, seeking to allay fears that introducing competition in the health insurance market would inevitably mean that older, sicker people would have to pay more for their care.
Competition has a positive and central role to play in the kind of reform programme being considered by the Government, said Ms McHugh. However, she warned that this does not mean a free-for-all market.
"Competition is all abut giving people choices, but that needs to give them proper information to make those choices."
Dr Jack Nagle, who set up Alpha Primary Care which operates in Ireland and the UK, contrasted the systems in both countries. He said there was difficulty in expecting competition among GP services in Ireland because there are simply not enough GPs, whereas there was a much greater choice in the UK.
Competition in healthcare is not the same as in other areas of business, said Dr Nagle.
Dr Brian Turner of UCC shared this view: "We don't demand healthcare. People demand good health but, apart from those with chronic illnesses, we are uncertain when we will need healthcare, so the costs and outcomes are not always known at the time of purchase. For instance, if you buy a loaf of bread, you know the cost immediately whereas in healthcare we will not know the final cost for a long time."