herald

Saturday 29 November 2014

Health crisis looms as cost stops doctor visits

THE country faces a new health crisis as people abandon health insurers in their droves. Almost four out of 10 Dubliners have cancelled or not to made a doctor's appointment on the grounds of cost.

Health chiefs now face a major challenge to bring medical costs back to affordable levels in order to prevent a long-term problem.

With the standard doctor's treatment now costing around €60 and an A&E visit €100, young people and women in particular are ignoring their health worries.

An exclusive poll of over 1,000 people in Dublin found that one in 10 have stopped paying their health insurance altogether.

Most of those who have ended their payments are aged between 25 and 49, while 15pc are self-employed.

The figures make for stark reading in light of the new government's plans to make health insurance compulsory.

Labour and Fine Gael have promised a new universal health system by 2016 which will require the majority of workers to pay for insurance.

It says that the rules will be rewritten so that the State will pay insurance for people on low incomes and subsidise cover for middle-income earners.

However, the Evening Herald/Lansdowne Millward Brown proves that even the most affluent in society are not immune to the insurance hikes.

Some 9pc of those in the wealthy AB earnings category have cancelled their policies, while another 14pc have cut back on their cover.

VHI announced at the start of the year that it would increase its premiums by up to 45pc while other insurers have followed with hikes of their own.

Overall, 12pc of people have been forced to downgrade their cover and therefore the level of insurance afforded to them and their families.

Again, the most likely age group to have cut back are between 25 and 60, while the self-employed are the worst affected.

Just 38pc of the more than 1,000 people surveyed said that they had been able to maintain their current level of cover throughout the recession.

Pensioners, many of whom have medical cards, have been by far the most resilient, with 55pc reporting no change to the insurance cover.

Four out of 10 people surveyed say they have never had private insurance. The highest proportion of these are aged in the 18-24 age group. A massive 68pc of those young people have never signed up for health cover.

A very high level of unemployed people -- 79pc -- also have no cover.



Family

A significant number of young people said either they or a family member had "put off a doctor's visit due to cost".

Perhaps surprisingly, it is women who are most likely not to seek medical advice, with 43pc of females avoiding an appointment. This compares with only one-third of men.

It is also a serious issue for the lower middle classes, who have been badly affected by the introduction of the Universal Service Charge. Nearly half (47pc) of C2s have postponed a visit in the past year.

Just over six out of 10 people said that they wouldn't allow money concerns to stop them from seeing a doctor, with 79pc of these over 65 years.

Older people are the most likely to go to the doctor as soon as they have a medical concern.

kdoyle@herald.ie

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