Belfast Telegraph

Family health insurance up by 15%

Hard-pressed families with private Vhi Healthcare are facing a massive 331 euro hike in fees to keep parents-and-children cover.

From next month, insurance for a mother, father and their two children is to increase 15%, or 27.60 euro a month, the company revealed.

The huge hikes will heap further pressure on cash-strapped families already counting the cost of tax hikes and child benefit cuts announced in the Budget.

Premiums for other plans could see increases as high as 45%.

Jimmy Tolan, Vhi Healthcare chief executive, said the company was losing 170 million euro a year because it holds a larger proportion of older customers more in need of care than other insurers.

He said: "We anticipate that our customers will require 10% more healthcare in 2011 compared to 2010. Today's price increase is necessary to provide healthcare cover for all of our customers."

Vhi, which lost about 48,000 customers in the last year, said 60% of its customers will see the cost of their premium increase by 15% when their policy is due for renewal.

Other tailored and more specialist plans, such as Plan B and Plan B options, popular among older customers, will rise by 35% and 45%.

James Reilly, Fine Gael health spokesman, said the Vhi had failed after 50 years in business to control health costs in Ireland.

Jan O'Sullivan, Labour's health spokesman, said the price hikes will force more people to give up private healthcare cover. "These increases will lead to a situation where many policy holders will reduce or drop their health cover, placing yet more pressure on the public health system," Ms O'Sullivan said.

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