Healthy start for new entrant to private insurance market
Glo beats customer switch target but still wary of VHI “subsidy”
Dowdall is also exercised about the introduction late last year of two tiers to the levy. Somehow, all health insurance subscribers have ended up on the higher tier, and will have to fork out a hefty increase in premiums after the charge goes up to €350 next month.
“The Minister stood up in the Dáil last December and said legislation would protect 330,000 people on lower-level insurance plans.
“Yet when the Bill was passed and the Health Insurance Authority made its assessment, 100 per cent of the plans were made subject to the higher levy. That was wrong.”
The effect is that more than half of the cost of premiums for people on the lower plans will be accounted for by the levy, he points out. The Minister wants the insurers to adjust their offerings by bringing more basic plans to market but Dowdall says this can only be done by stripping away benefits.
“So for an MRI scan costing €160, you tell the customer that only 66 per cent of the cost will be covered – that’s crazy. You’re impacting on the people who can least afford it.”
So how would he rate the performance of the Minister generally?
“There’s no doubt he has the most challenging brief in Cabinet, and there is a need for real reform. I would be concerned whether the Minister has the tools and resources he needs at his disposal. Previous ministers also found it very difficult to drive reform, and he risks ending up in the same place. There’s a need for fresh thinking in the Department.”
As for Dr Reilly’s holy grail of universal health insurance, Dowdall warns that this goal won’t be achieved if prices keep rising.
“There’s a huge amount of detail missing. I believe in the ambition of UHI but I’d like to understand the roadmap to get there. The timeframe is very aggressive and there is no evidence of the required level of progress being made.”
Despite the turbulence in the market, Dowdall says Glo’s ambitions are big: “We’re not here to be a me-too player. We aim to change the shape of the market and to lead it in the next few years.”
The recent sale of Irish Life, which invested €8 million in the start-up for a 49 per cent share, will have no impact on the health insurer, he says.