The country's biggest health insurer VHI Healthcare has reported a deficit of €65m for the 10-month period ending December 2008, according to its financial results. This compares with a surplus of almost €63m for the year to February 2008.

VHI Healthcare says its deficit of €65m was due to the fact that it paid out €30m more than it received in premium income. There has been a substantial increase in the number of medical procedures paid for. The company also lost €43m on its investment portfolio.

VHI says it spent on average €775 for each customer last year in meeting their medical needs. This was between €300-400 more on each subscriber compared with its rivals.

Today, it announced plans to introduce new products for illness prevention, chronic disease management and care in the community. It also intends to introduce screening services for 30,000 customers by 2011.

Chief executive Jimmy Tolan said the current difficult economic environment will affect the VHI's membership levels this year but insisted that by European standards the company remained well capitalised and financially strong.

VHI is obliged to be regulated by the Financial Regulator and says it will need extra capital to satisfy the regulator's solvency requirements.