45% VHI hikes show madness of for-profit health system

Minister Harney’s mission was to open up the private healthcare market to competition because of future benefits to ‘consumers’ she promised.

The announcement of VHI of increases averaging 15% but as high as 45% for their older customers is as graphic an illustration as we can get that for-profit healthcare is a disaster. It is a disaster made even worse by having competing private firms whose ‘success’ rides on building up a client base dominated by relatively young and healthy people from whom they can extract more money and give less in return by way of healthcare and conversely excluding or victimising with exorbitant fees the elderly and sick as well as those with pre-existing ailments.

VHI estimate that they will lose 5,000 older ‘customers’ who they obviously see as a burden. That is 5,000 people who paid into their schemes possibly for up to 50 years who will be forced onto inferior plans.

Is it not a perversity that those with the greatest need of care are treated this way? Is it not self evident having three for-profit health insurance firms represents a colossal waste of resources? Think of what could be saved in administration, marketing, advertising, sponsoring sports stadiums as well as the obscene salaries like VHI’s chief executive Jimmy Tolan who receives €412,000 if we instead had a single tier universal public healthcare system funded by progressive taxation and free at the point of use.

But what is Fine Gael and Labour’s response? To bring even more companies into the market and force everybody to take out private health insurance with the help of state funding! In other words the taxpayer further subsiding the profits of the privateers. Deputy O’Reilly of Fine Gael proudly talks of the negotiations Fine Gael are having with an ‘international big player’ who they want to bring into the market. What makes him think that bigger firms will treat people any better than VHI, Quinn and Aviva?

The Socialist Party and the United Left Alliance will campaign vigorously for a proper public healthcare system and sustain a campaign beyond the election against the Fine Gael/Labour policy.