Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny has strongly criticised the announcement by the VHI to increase premiums this year by up to 45 per cent.
“I am appalled at this massive price hike by the VHI,” Dep Kenny said. “I consider it a direct attack on the elderly, the lower-paid, and those who are genuinely struggling to makes ends meet but are fearful to cancel their policies in case they fall ill.
“Many senior citizens with private health insurance are finding it very difficult to manage their finances due to increased fuel bills this winter. They now face the prospect of having to cancel their health insurance. The current crisis in our hospitals will do nothing to alleviate their fears.
“I know of an elderly couple in their eighties who will now be forced to pay an additional €634 this year for their ‘plan B’ policy. And what about the young couple with a crippling mortgage who face the same bill? This decision by the VHI is totally indefensible,” he said.
Labour candidate Dr Jerry Cowley has described the hike as a major concern that will place huge financial pressure on households who can ill afford it.
“These increases will lead to many policy holders reducing or dropping their health cover, placing yet more pressure on the public health system,” Dr Cowley said.
“For years we have had to suffer the consequences of a dysfunctional healthcare system and now it seems we have an increasingly dysfunctional health insurance system.
“The Labour Party has been making the case for universal health insurance for almost a decade. Our health policy is a product of our core principle: that something as vital to human life, and human dignity, as healthcare, should be equally available to each member of our community on the basis of medical need, not income.
“The current system is not only inequitable but also hugely inefficient and works neither for those who have health insurance, nor for those who do not,” he added. “It is clear that a complete change is needed sooner rather than later.”