Private health premiums may rise by up to 7% in 2021

Extra Covid costs and impact of delayed procedures will push insurance costs higher

The financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on healthcare providers is a factor in the rising cost of  premiums worldwide

The financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on healthcare providers is a factor in the rising cost of premiums worldwide

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Irish private health insurance customers face another strong single-digit rise in premiums next year, according to benefits consultants Willis Towers Watson. However, prices in Ireland are likely to jump less than elsewhere.

Health insurance prices in Ireland will increase by between 5 per cent and 7 per cent in 2021, in part due to the impact of Covid -19. This follows an average rise of 5 per cent this year and 4.5 per cent in 2019, they say.

Globally, healthcare benefit costs are expected to jump by more than 8 per cent next year, according to Willis Tower Watson’s global medical trends survey.

Costs are rising internationally for a range of factors – the increasing costs of treatment, ageing populations, and advancements in medical technology.

The financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on healthcare providers is another factor, requiring increased numbers of medical staff, new procedures and PPE costs.

“Globally we are seeing an increase in medical costs that are reflected here in Ireland,” said David Glennon, director of health and benefits at Willis Towers Watson. “The Covid-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on healthcare.”

He said the Government takeover of private hospitals earlier this year had led to rebates for customers or offsets against future premiums. “It meant that while the price of health insurance plans increased by an average of 5 per cent, actual health insurance costs fell by approximately 10 per cent because of this rebate.”

Procedures

However, in the absence of any further State takeover of hospitals, Mr Glennon said prices to customers, including employers, would rise in 2021.

He noted that cost was in part determined by the number of hospital visits and procedures. “We anticipate an increase in medical procedures that might have been delayed [by Covid] or may now be required as result of the pandemic impacting the overall cost,” he said.

For employers who pay the private health insurance of staff, Mr Glennon said a key consideration was “how they will balance these increased healthcare costs with the welfare of their workforce”.

The survey found that globally over two-thirds of respondents expect that medical costs will continue to accelerate over the next three years, with 77 per cent of insurers in Europe of that view.

The survey was conducted between July and September, with 287 medical insurers operating across 76 countries taking part.