The European Commission, driven by the dogma of market competition, insists that the Irish government strip the country’s Voluntary Health Insurance Board (VHIB) of its status as a solidarity-based institution.
VHIB’s status as a form of social security gives it access to an unlimited state guarantee, even though it functions like a mutual insurance system, with open and noncompulsory membership. VHIB is furthermore supported by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) and has created no hostility with the Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC).
As a part of its war against distortions of competition, the Commission is demanding that VHIB be transformed from a social organization into a group of private for-profit companies. The Commission has issued injunctions worthy of Torquemada that, if observed, would cost VHIB its status as a publicly-funded corporation as well as its state guarantee. The company’s solvency would then rely, as a matter of course, on its provisions, leading inescapably to increased contributions in the form of higher membership fees.
Ireland and Portugal share the dubious honor of having the highest level of income inequality in Western Europe. It is a safe bet that cutting off part of the population from this organization, which has a great number of members in Ireland, will not improve access to healthcare for those most in need. Ireland has undertaken to do away with the state guarantee, but the Commission nevertheless issued a statement warning that if no agreement is reached on its injunctions by the end of August, it will begin investigation procedures on Ireland’s state aid policy!