The VHI ‘s call centre has buckled under the strain of the large volume of calls being made by customers concerned at the price increases the health insurer announced yesterday.
People trying to contact the company to change their renewal dates or to switch to cheaper corporate plans are being greeted with a recorded message which says: “We are currently experiencing a high volume of calls and are unable to take your call at the moment”.
The message advises people to visit the health insurer’s website for more information.
The company announced plans to significantly increase the cost of its premiums from the beginning of next month and people insured under the company’s Plan B and Plan B Options policies will be hardest hit by the rises. While the average increase for the majority of the health insurer’s 1.35 million subscribers will be 15 per cent, people on those two plans will see costs rise by between 35 and 45 per cent.
From February 1st, the premium for an adult on Plan B will go up by €317 to €1,224, while someone with a Plan B Options policy will see their annual premium rise by €444 to €1,430.Some 29 per cent of the health insurer’s customers currently have one or other of these policies.
Criticism of the price hikes continued to mount this morning, with the chief executive of the National Consumer Agency Ann Fitzgerald urging VHI customers to shop around for better value.
“This is one area where real savings can be made by shopping around, that really is our core message at the NCA. There is no cost to switching,” she said and added the agency would be publishing advice on how concerned consumers should respond to the price increases.
Socialist Party MEP Joe Higgins said the price increase were a “graphic an illustration as we can get that for-profit healthcare is a disaster”.
He said the “disaster” was made worse by having competing private firms whose success depended on “building up a client base dominated by relatively young and healthy people from whom they can extract more money and give less in return by way of healthcare and conversely excluding or victimising with exorbitant fees the elderly and sick as well as those with pre-existing ailments. “