Quinn presents legislation to radically reform health insurance sector

Senator says his Bill also clarifies VHI’s regulatory status

Senator Feargal Quinnn: says it is  untenable that  VHI  not subject to  same regulatory or solvency requirements as other health insurance providers. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Senator Feargal Quinnn: says it is untenable that VHI not subject to same regulatory or solvency requirements as other health insurance providers. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Fri, Jun 20, 2014, 01:05

Legislation to radically reform the health insurance sector will be debated in the Seanad next week. Independent Senator Feargal Quinn published the Health Insurance (Reform) Bill, which, he said, should “overcome the challenges faced in the area of health insurance”. He told the House the Bill was in line with “what has been done in other European countries over the years”.

The Private Members’ Bill transfers responsibility for the management of the State’s ownership of the VHI from the Minister for Health to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

The legislation also clarifies the VHI’s regulatory status. It dissolves the Health Insurance Authority and moves responsibility for the regulation of health insurance to the Central Bank of Ireland.

The Minister for Health is currently the shareholder and largest provider of private hospital services in the market through the HSE. He is also the shareholder of the VHI, the largest health insurer in the Irish market. He also has responsibility for regulating the health insurance sector – exercising wide-ranging powers that have a direct impact upon both the HSE and the VHI. “By any measure this is an unhealthy set of circumstances,” Mr Quinn said.

The Senator added that it was also untenable that the VHI was not subject to the same regulatory or solvency requirements as other health insurance providers, which was the judgment of the European Court of Justice in its 2011 decision on the VHI. “It is imperative that the Government acts to implement the decision of the European Court of Justice,” he said. “This Bill addresses an important issue.”