herald

Monday 23 October 2017

Deadline looms as over-34s face hikes in health insurance

Health Minister Leo Varadkar
Health Minister Leo Varadkar

Health insurance shouldn’t be seen as some sort of luxury, Health Minister Leo Varadkar has claimed.

He was speaking as the deadline approaches for people to take out private health insurance or face higher premiums.

Just over half the people in this country have health insurance.

Charge

After April 30, people over the age of 34 who take out private health insurance for the first time will pay an additional charge

“The number of people with health insurance is rising again,” Mr Varadkar said today.

“The next step is lifetime community rating. It is designed to get more people in their thirties and forties to take out health insurance now, essentially so it doesn’t go up when they get older.

“The system we have of health insurance in Ireland is all around community rating. Unlike America for example, everyone pays the same. You don’t pay more because you are older or sicker.

“But to make that system sustainable, you need people to pay in when they are younger and when they are well,” he said.

“It is voluntary. People have until April 30 to sign up, but it does mean that if they don’t sign up by then, they will face a higher premium.”

“The loading rises by two per cent a year, and there are exceptions made for periods of unemployment for example,” he said.

“What we are doing is rewarding people who pay into health insurance when they are young and well,” he said.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said Mr Varadkar was acting like a tout for the private health insurance industry.

‘Crazy’

“It is a crazy idea that a person should pay more when buying health insurance for the first time due to their age”.

Mr Boyd Barrett also noted that this is “yet another measure that people on lower incomes could not possibly avail of due to the over whelming burden of austerity”.

Mr Varadkar said that universal health insurance is still the long-term vision.

Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar said that any salary overpayments to HSE staff, as outlined in the draft Comptroller and Auditor General report will be pursued.

fdillon@herald.ie

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