Cheaper premiums unlikely, TDs told

Thu, Oct 25, 2012, 01:00

Moves to cheaper health insurance premiums through the introduction of "lifetime equalisation" are possible, but unlikely to be required because the Government is introducing universal health insurance, an Oireachtas Committee has been told. 

Under lifetime equalisation health insurance systems in use in some other countries,  those who take out insurance earlier in life, pay lower premiums than their peers who join the health insurance market at a later age.

This morning the Health Insurance Authority told TDs and Senators legislation for such a move had already been passed by the Oireachtas, but would be unlikely to be implemented because it would be made unnecessary by Government plans for universal health care.

Chief executive of the Health Insurance Authority Liam Sloyan said Ireland’s “risk equalisation”, as opposed to lifetime equalisation, meant older people paid the same as each other for health insurance, as well as paying the same as younger people. He said the health insurance market was deliberately “structured so that everybody pays the same”.

He said introducing “ lifetime equalisation” to benefit those who have held policies for a long time, would not be compatible with Government plans for universal health insurance.

In response to a question from Deputy Ciara Conway he said allowing people a “no claims bonus” similar to the motor industry, “effectively would be a benefit to healthier people”.

But he told Committee chairman Jerry Buttimer the biggest loss in people from the private health insurance market was among the 18 to 29 year-olds. He said there was “a decline in ages up to about 50” but people from 50 onwards tended to hold onto their insurance.

Chairman of the Health Insurance Authority Jim Joyce said there may have been some merit in Lifetime equalisation in the past, as it provided an incentive for younger people to take out policies, but in the future such a move would not be contrary to Government plans for universal health care.

However Deputy Denis Naughten accused the authority of not doing enough to encourage people, particularly older people, to shop around for insurance policies. Deputy Naughten said the industry claimed the biggest element in increased premiums was increased costs. But he said costs had increased by just 15 percent while premiums had increased by 60 percent over the same period.

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