Belfast Telegraph

Minister pressured to issue report

Health Minster Mary Harney will come under further pressure this week to publish a damning audit report into the finances of health insurer Vhi.

The company has faced criticism since warning customers and patients they face increased fees of up to 45% from next month as it battles to balance the books.

Experts at consultancy firm Milliman handed a report to the minister in September which identified massive inefficiencies at Vhi.

Dr James Reilly, Fine Gael health spokesman, repeated his call for an open assessment of the insurer's finances.

"It's grossly unfair of the Vhi to impose such outrageous increases on premiums for some of the most loyal customers when there is a report available which I understand states there could be many millions of savings and whereby avoid these increases altogether," he said.

"I can't understand why the minister is sitting on her hands."

Dr Reilly is to bring a motion to the Dail during private members' time on Tuesday and Wednesday in a bid to force publication.

Fine Gael want the Minister to order the Vhi to postpone premium increases until the Milliman Report is released. Dr Reilly also called for the Government to speed up the introduction of new risk equalisation measures.

The revised rules are needed to support insurance companies with a higher proportion of older, often sicker and therefore more expensive, customers. It is feared it will be two years before new legislation is finalised.

The Vhi, which has more than one million customers, has been invited to the Oireachtas Health Committee on January 25 to answer questions on the price hikes. The premium increases mean price hikes of between 15% and 45% from February. The Vhi, which is for sale, has said it has already delivered savings of 100 million euro through a range of cost containment initiatives.

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