The state-owned insurer, VHI, is on the market, FT.com reports (reg. req.). The story is interesting in its own right, but the government’s struggle to mix private and public health insurance schemes has a lot of the elements that we in the U.S. grappled with in the abstract as Obamacare passed. And our government will soon enough face what the Irish face today.
In Ireland, the state provides a minimal package – hospitalization, maternity and infant care, outpatient services – which half the population thinks is just fine. However there can be problems with waits, so the other half of the population gets private insurance.
VHI is the largest private insurer, run by the government. It’s not subject to the solvency laws that other private insurers are, as the state’s financial backing stands in for surplus. It will need €300 million pumped into it before it’s healthy enough to stand on its own. But there are other headaches, too.