Most people don’t shop around for health insurance despite potential savings, watchdog finds

Some 71% of the more than 2 million people with private health insurance have never moved provider

The vast majority of Irish consumers have never switched health insurance provider despite significant savings to be made by shopping around, the Health Insurance Authority (HIA) has found.

In its annual consumer survey published on Wednesday morning it found that 71 per cent of the more than 2 million people with private health insurance have never moved provider.

The average length of time people have had a health insurance policy is 20 years while the average length of time people have stayed with their current provider is 15 years, the survey said.

Almost 70 per cent have no plans to change their cover when their renewal is due.


Over 22 per cent of people with health insurance are over 65 years old and those over 55 are paying significantly more often as a result of being on the same policy for a long period of time.

The chief executive of the HIA Ray Dolan described the consumer inertia as “interesting” and said the HIA always recommends shopping around.

“Consumers don’t necessarily have to change provider, switching between plans with the same providers is also an option,” he said.

According to the HIA, saving money remains the main driver for switching health insurance provider, followed by the level of cover.

Health insurance customers would want to save at least 22 per cent to consider switching, down from 30 per cent in 2021 and 2019.

All told only 15 per cent of those who took part in the survey said they would find it very difficult to change health insurance, which, the HIA said “implies that most people do not find it challenging despite the proliferation of plans”.

The reasons cited for not changing included being happy with their current provider or believing that the cost saving would not be enough to entice them to switch.

However, 44 per cent of people acknowledged that it can be difficult to understand how health insurance works, and the terminology that is used.

Cost is a significant factor in not buying health insurance with almost half of those interviewed citing costs as the main barrier.

Among younger adults, one in five said they didn’t have health insurance because they were satisfied with public services.

As in previous years, private health insurance is considered a necessity rather than a luxury by almost 60 per cent of those surveyed.

There remains a firm belief that health insurance enables people to access better healthcare services and to fast-track access to those services.

The majority either take out health insurance because of perceived inadequate public services or to avoid waiting times.

It found a third of people would never give up their health insurance unless they felt the health system improved or they really couldn’t afford it.

The majority of people interviewed felt that health insurance price hikes are not appropriate or justified.

The survey based on over 2,000 face-to-face interviews also found that men are more likely to have cover than women and be either older or have child dependents.

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Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor and cohost of the In the News podcast