Fianna Fáil Health Spokesperson Billy Kelleher has said the Minister for Health is in complete denial about the crisis facing the private health insurance market and the impact price increases is going to have on the public hospital system. 

Deputy Kelleher said: “Tens of thousands of people simply being forced out of private cover in the new year.  As a direct result of the policies being pursued by Minister Reilly private health insurers are increasing their premiums significantly. 

“Quinn, VHI and Aviva have all announced increases and more increases across a range of health plans are expected from the VHI again in the new year.  Minister Reilly accused the opposition of scaremongering when we said we feared increases of up to 20%.  This is now a reality and families do not have an extra €1,000 in some cases to pay the increased premiums. 

“The Minister’s plans to raise €143m next year through a combination of increased charges to private patients and changes to legislation to allow for the charging of all private patients whether they are occupying a designated private bed or not are having a serious impact on the cost of private health insurance. 

“Approximately 850,000 people are expected to be renewing their cover over the next three to four months.  With increases in the order of 15-20% thousands of them will simply have no choice but to opt out and rely entirely on a public health system Minister Reilly once described as a “horrible, self-serving system”

“The reality is that moves which increase charges on private patients in public hospitals are a false economy.  Cuts to hospitals’ budgets have resulted in massive deficits in individual hospitals.  The policy being pursued by Minister Reilly will incentivise hospitals to give priority to private patients as they will be worth more to them to balance their budgets.  The people who will suffer in this scenario are the growing number of public patients who will be forced to wait longer for care.  The Minister must rethink his strategy in relation to private health insurance while there’s still a health insurance market left in Ireland.”