VHI to be allowed sell international healthcare plans directly

New legislation would allow insurer sell international plans without intermediary

Minister for Health Simon Harris on Tuesday has told Ministers that in future he wants VHI to be in a position to sell international healthcare plans directly. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister for Health Simon Harris on Tuesday has told Ministers that in future he wants VHI to be in a position to sell international healthcare plans directly. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

State-owned health insurer VHI will in future be permitted to sell international healthcare plans covering the provision of treatment abroad under new proposals to be brought to Cabinet by the Minister for Health Simon Harris on Tuesday.

As part of new health insurance legislation the Minister is also proposing to increase the size of the board of the Health Insurance Authority – the regulator for the sector – and put in place some technical changes to the composition of the board of VHI.

Mr Harris has told Ministers that in future he wants VHI to be in a position to sell international healthcare plans directly and for the company not to have to have prior ministerial approval before it can do this.

The Minister said that at present VHI – which is the country’s largest health insurer – is restricted under existing legislation to acting as an agent in the sale of international healthcare plans.

Mr Harris said it was proposed that new health insurance legislation would change this situation to permit VHI to sell international healthcare plans directly without an intermediary.

“This amendment will also remove the requirement for VHI to seek ministerial approval before selling these plans. This development is consistent with VHI’s current status as an authorised insurer competing in a highly competitive and regulated marketplace and it will remove the impediment in VHI’s ability to compete with its competitors and ensure VHI may avail of significant business opportunities,” Mr Harris told the Cabinet in a memorandum.

In the proposed new legislation the Minister also is seeking to expand the size of the board of the Health Insurance Authority from five members to seven members.

The quorum for the board will be increased from three to four members.

Mr Harris told Ministers that since the establishment of the authority in 2001 with a provision for five board members, the health insurance market had become more complex with insurers increasingly adapting innovative marketing and product propositions to expand their client base and improve their risk profile.

He said it was desirable that the board of the authority had a broad range of skills and experience but that limiting the number to five members at present resulted in a situation where some skills could be absent or where it was reliant on the expertise of just one director in particular areas.