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Fifth VHI premium hike in two years hits 1.2m people

VHI is to hike premiums by an average 6pc for its 1.2 million customers

THIS is the fifth increase by the country's biggest health insurer in two years. The Irish Patients Association warned today that many people, simply cannot afford the increased premiums.

"Some industry sources suggest to us that around 5,000 people a month are leaving private health insurance," Stephen McMahon of the Irish Patients Association told the Herald.

"The numbers are down about 200,000 from its peak.

"The upshot is that there is a huge loss in revenue.

"The other concern is that by giving up health insurance, people are joining a queue of 350,000 and you could be waiting a long time for a first appointment with a consultant and eight or nine months for your operation."

Consumer Association boss Dermott Jewell agreed, saying: "There is no question that every time they have an increase they lose numbers. They are reaching the point where long term members who have struggled to hold on to their membership will just have to let it go."

Mr Jewell said he appreciated that the Minister had bargained the insurer down from seeking 11pc to the planned 6pc but added: "Its coming to the point where only the wealthy will be able to afford this form of insurance."