Fine Gael Meath East TD and member of the Oireachtas Health Committee, Regina Doherty, has said that Fianna Fail's Billy Kelleher should acknowledge that today's price hike from the VHI would have been higher were it not for the intervention of the Minister for Health, James Reilly TD.
"While this price increase from the VHI is most unwelcome, the fact remains that it would have been higher were it not for the intervention of Minister Reilly. Billy Kelleher has called on the Minister to meet with the VHI, and put pressure on it over increases. Deputy Kelleher should be pleased to note that the Minister has already done both of these things.
"The Minister has no legal power to veto a VHI price increase. However, earlier this week he called a meeting with the senior management of the company to let them know of his effective rejection and lack of support of their decision to impose an increase of 8%, which was originally on the table.
"The Minister has consistently made it clear that he is not willing to support price increases, when the VHI are not doing enough to control their costs. The decision by VHI, and other health insurers, to hike up their prices, not only adds pressure on hard pressed consumers, it accelerates the loss of customers from the private health insurance market.
"It is entirely unfair that VHI customers are facing price increases of up to 6%. The company cannot expect to retain its customer base if it continues to implement across the board price hikes. The insurer needs to complete a proper audit to examine just how much it is paying for procedures and how it can better manage to its costs. Patients cannot continue to be penalised.
"Minister Reilly has called on the company to provide a cost containment plan and an overall strategy, and he has also recommended a series of actions to the company aimed at controlling costs.
"Further progress is clearly needed in this area. But Fianna Fail must also acknowledge that Minister Reilly is taking a hard-line approach with the company, and without his actions, customers would be facing even higher premiums."