THE FIANNA FÁIL leader today accused the Government of “making life unbearable” for middle-income families.
Micheál Martin asked Taoiseach Enda Kenny if, in light of yesterday’s decision to increase the levy on private health insurance, the Government would increase the amount of tax relief available on policies.
Martin said that Government policies were “driving people out of the private health insurance market”.
Wasn’t one increase enough? Given everything that is happening in the health insurance market? Why are you hammering hard pressed families, who are of the view that they are paying for everything anyway?
The Taoiseach hit back, accusing Martin of “denying reality” and advocating the abandonment of the risk equalisation scheme, which ensures that elderly policy holders pay the same as younger cohorts.
“The objection of the Health Minister is to reform the health service, but to do so in a way that allows elderly people pay the same as younger people. Every year, 20,000 people reach the age of 65.”
About 19 per cent of health insurance policy holders are 65 or older, the Taoiseach said, adding that community rating and risk equalisation must be protected.
Martin said that he never advocated the policy change, but said that the “haemorrhage could not go on” if the sector was to be protected.
“The centre will not hold if the haemorrhage continues. Meanwhile, you’re making life unbearable for hard-pressed families with this incoherent and ad-hoc policy.”
In response, the Taoiseach said that younger insurers could not “have it every way”, saying that they had an advantage in having younger customers, who typically cost less to cover.