Large drop in people with health insurance
More that 60,000 people have cancelled their health insurance policies over the last 12 months, new figures from the Health Insurance Authority (HIA) have revealed.
Its latest report shows there were 2.109 million people – or 46 per cent of the population – with private health insurance at the end of September, down from a peak of just under 2.3 million towards the end of 2008.
In December 2008, the number of people with health insurance stood at 2,297,000.
Since then, the market has been in decline, with the number insured falling by 188,000 in four years.
The HIA does not say what has caused the dramatic decline in popularity of health insurance in recent years.
However, the ongoing recession, coupled with multiple price rises from the State’s health insurance providers – more than 65 per cent in some cases – are being seen as responsible for prompting many consumers’ decisions.
Last week, Laya Healthcare announced it will carry out a general price increase ranging from 3 to 14 per cent from the beginning of next year, while the price of some of its plans will rise from today.
Its Health Sense Excess plan has gone up in price from €811 to €890 per adult.
At the same time, its Simply Health Starter policy has increased from €770.70 to €830 per adult.
The price of its HealthWise Plus No Excess and its SimplyHealth Excess have also increased as of this morning.
Some of the company’s price plans have gone the other way. Its Company Care No Excess has reduced in price from €1,157.09 to €1,099.24 per adult. The company’s child and student prices on the same policy have fallen from €377.91 to €359.01
The VHI has also carried out a general price increase averaging 3 per cent for adults on most of their plans in recent weeks.
Aviva Health increased the price of its plans ranging from 4 to 7 per cent in the middle of October.
Health insurers told an Oireachtas hearing last month that they wanted to be able to offer cheaper premiums to those who live healthier lifestyles, while also rewarding people for taking out health insurance at earlier stages in their lives.
Representatives of the main insurers told the Oireachtas hearing that this could halt the large numbers of young people in the 18-29 year age group who are leaving private healthcare.
The committee heard that some 175,000 people, many under 30, had left private healthcare in the past three years.
This is a factor that drives up the cost of providing insurance for older people.
Minister for Health James Reilly has been working on an overhaul of the health insurance market for more than 12 months, and a new risk-equalisation scheme will be introduced early in the new year.