FG urges deferral of VHI increase pending cost audit


VHI subscriptions should not be increased until an independent audit of the company's cost base is carried out, the Fine Gael spokesman on health, Mr Gay Mitchell, has said.

If VHI had a justifiable case for an increase, it should be ascertained independently, he argued. The company has announced a rise of 6.25 per cent in subscriptions from February 1st, 2001, which it says is necessary to cover the additional costs of healthcare for its members.

Mr Mitchell said that over two years the company had announced price rises in excess of 15 per cent, which were "certainly out of kilter with inflation". "We should get an independent value-for-money audit and it should be carried out by someone nominated by a body such as the Public Accounts Committee and delivered back to them."

Dr Bernadette Carr, medical director of VHI, said independent consultants had already been brought in by the company to look at its cost base, and they had said VHI costs were in line with best practice. "We're quite confident of our cost base, our cost structure," she said on RTE radio yesterday.

Dr Carr said that VHI was trying to provide its members with the level of benefits which they had come to expect. "We're all aware of the fact that we're living in a thriving, growing economy, and that has costs associated with it. And this is what this is about, paying for the benefits for healthcare for our members."

The Labour Party spokeswoman on health, Ms Liz McManus, said it was inevitable that there would be increases in health insurance. It simply highlighted, she said, the need for change in how the health system was organised and funded. "There is a choice to be made to sort out our apartheid health system," she said.

She said the Labour Party proposal to introduce a universal health insurance system "is the way to go to provide for the needs of all our citizens".

A VHI spokeswoman pointed out that, according to its research, the cost of health insurance in the State compared favourably with that in other countries.