‘Vast majority’ retain some level of health insurance - Reilly

Health Insurance Bill to give companies time to regulate product for the New Year

Minister for Health Dr James Reilly said ’even in the current difficult economic circumstances, the vast majority of consumers are retaining some level of health insurance cover’. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/The Irish Times

Minister for Health Dr James Reilly said ’even in the current difficult economic circumstances, the vast majority of consumers are retaining some level of health insurance cover’. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/The Irish Times

Tue, Nov 19, 2013, 21:06

Just over two million people or 44.9 per cent of the population currently hold private health insurance, the Dáil has heard.

Minister for Health James Reilly said this evening that the number had been in decline since the peak of almost 2.3 million insured, at the end of 2008.

But he said “even in the current difficult economic circumstances, the vast majority of consumers are retaining some level of health insurance cover”.

Dr Reilly listed the figures as he gave details of his legislation, the Health Insurance Bill, to implement risk equalisation in the private health insurance market.

He said risk equalisation involved “looking at the market as a whole and to distribute fairly the differences that arise in insurance costs due to the different health status of the insured population”.

There are four insurers in the private health insurance market, but “there is clear disparity in the membership profile and thus the associated costs being incurred across the various commercial insurers”, Dr Reilly said.

Risk equalisation would be introduced from March next year but the Minister said he wanted to give insurers proper notice so they could regulate their products for the beginning of the new year.

He wanted to give commercial insurers as much advance notification as possible to allow them trade in the new rates into their business strategy for the year ahead in a planned manner.

It would also allow them sufficient time to consider and review any actions necessary to avoid simply levying the full impact onto customers directly.

“These revised risk equalisation credits are the latest measures to be introduced as part of an ongoing strategy to keep health insurance as affordable as possible.

“The community rating, reflecting the principle of intergenerational solidarity is a fundamental cornerstone of the Irish health insurance market.”

Debate on the Bill continues on Thursday.