Health insurer VHI records €43.4m loss as cost of claims rises by 18%

State-owned company cites spike in demand for healthcare services in 2023, along with higher labour and energy costs

State-owned health insurer VHI slipped into the red last year as the cost of claims jumped by 18 per cent and it experienced higher labour and energy costs and a strong increase in demand for healthcare services.

This resulted in the company recording a net deficit or loss of €43.4 million, compared with a net surplus or profit of €34.3 million in 2022.

The company’s annual results show that it recorded a 3.2 per cent increase in premiums last year and saw its customer base climb by more than 37,000.

It took in €1.68 billion in premiums for its private health insurance business with its customer base increasing for the 9th year in a row. Almost 1.7 million people have coverage with the company across its range of products.

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VHI recorded €29.9 million in income on other insurance products including travel, dental, life and international health insurance.

The results note that in 2023, Ireland experienced “a faster than anticipated recovery in demand for healthcare following years of restrictions in access and capacity associated with the pandemic”.

It also notes “an unprecedented increase in the volume and cost of claims” with the VHI paying out over €1.68 billion, up 18 per cent on 2022.

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The insurer has announced a series of price increases in recent months and it said they were necessary and came in the wake of net price reductions from 2020 to 2022.

Its core health insurance membership base last year stood at just over 1.2 million, while MultiTrip, its annual travel insurance, membership now stands at 354,698, up 8.4 per cent on the previous year.

The accelerated return to healthcare was reflected in its provision of services, which recorded a 21 per cent increase in the volume of member interactions to more than 630,000. This included urgent and planned care delivered through Vhi 360 Health Centres, Hospital@Home and digital healthcare offerings.

“In 2023 our members accessed significantly more healthcare than in any other year in our history and claims accelerated at a rate not experienced before,” said group chief executive Brian Walsh. “This brought challenges as VHI experienced a financial deficit in 2023.”

He said the “unprecedented rise in claims volumes combined with high levels of cost inflation is being addressed through continued focus on efficiency and value for money, aligning pricing with demand for and cost of healthcare, and continuous investment in superior healthcare and technology capability”.

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor