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Mature Living

Sligo Now


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Is Health system failing the elderly?

FOR some years now there has been at least some anecdotal evidence that health insurers may be discriminating against older people when it came to increased costs of health cover. Now a new analysis of the latest price increases show Vhi, Laya and Irish Life Health have increased their prices by an average of between 3pc and 6pc. But the increases for the health plans most keenly bought by older people are up 10pc.
All three providers have increased their prices across the board, but the hardest hit have been plans older members take out. Some of the smaller price increases are on plans that do not fully cover the likes of hip replacements and cataract operations, and so do not tend to be taken out by older people.
Mr. Dermot Goode of calculated that a retired couple on Vhi's Health Plus Extra plan (which used to be called B Options) will have to pay €370 more to stay on this plan.
Chairman of the Consumers' Association, Michael Kilcoyne, has accused insurers of singling out older people for the sharpest price increases.
"The insurers are acting in a discriminatory manner because they are putting the biggest price rises on the plans that older people opt for, the ones that fully cover the likes of hip replacements."
He said the best-value plans are not an option for elderly people as they do not fully cover age-related procedures.
All of the insurers contend they are not discriminating against the elderly and the price increases reflect higher costs.

In the public health sector, of course, elderly patients have to endure long and painful delays for any surgery of this nature and “are being cheated out of precious time” according to the Irish Medical Organisation. Elderly patients are sometimes waiting for well over two years just to see a specialist, before being put on another waiting list for surgery. The big blockages are in orthopaedics and ear, nose and throat procedures, again reflecting the ageing population.
The overall picture is alarming.
Latest figures show there are 564,829 patients in the queue to see a specialist and another 68,807 needing surgery, while there are vacancies for 520 hospital specialists. Further budgetary constraints in a Brexit environment may only add to the woes of an already embattled elderly population.