VHI announces price hikes

Health insurer VHI has announced price increases across many of its healthcare plans today.

The increases will range between 2% and 6%, according to reports, and will take effect from March.

VHI's Chief Executive John O'Dwyer says he recognises the enormous financial pressures facing customers - but says they've been forced to make the changes because of the new charge on private patients using public hospital beds.

From the turn of the New Year, private patients have been charged for occupying beds in public hospitals. That measure - introduced in the Budget - was strongly opposed by the health insurers.

The highest premium rises will be on the Health Plus Access and Health Plus Extra plans - both of which are going up by 6%.

While the VHI's One Plan is going up by 2%.

Health analysts believe the increase will see a family of two adults and two children paying between €50 and €250 extra per year on their insurance

However, no price rises are expected to be announced for customers on corporate plans, which are marketed to companies but which can be bought by families.

Vice-Chairman of the Consumers Association Michael Kilcoyne said people are suffering as a result of bad health policies.

"It seems to me that all hospitalisation is costing more because of government policy, and now the ordinary consumer has to pay their PRSI contributions - which includes their health levy - and then if they want to really get into hospital, they have to have private health insurance," he said.

"So you've arrived at a situation where you have to be paying twice for a service that's - in many cases - let's face it, is not even available to you once."

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