Health insurance deadline: 74,000 buy policies in April

With Lifetime Community Rating, over-34s have to pay more if taking out new policies

About 74,000 new private health insurance policies were sold in April, with tens of thousands of people rushing to enter the market to avoid age-related penalties introduced at the beginning of May.

Under the new Lifetime Community Rating (LCR) regime which started on May 1st, anyone aged over 34 without private health insurance has to pay higher prices if they take out a policy.

For each year someone goes over that cut off point, they have to add 2 per cent to the cost of their annual premium.

The changes put pressure on people to enter the market, and Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has confirmed 74,000 policies were taken out in just 30 days.


Reversal of trend

This represents a reversal of a trend over recent years which saw up to 24,000 people leave the market in the first quarter of each year.

Almost 2.1 million people now have private health insurance, and while the number is climbing, it is still some way off the high point of 2.3 million policy holders recorded in 2008.

"This should lead to further stabilisation of pricing and hopefully no further increases from any insurer during 2015," health insurance expert Dermot Goode said.

He warned, however, that price increases on the cheap entry level plans launched ahead of the LCR deadline could be expected shortly.

He expressed caution over the quality of policies now being marketed to consumers and suggested that “the figures are masking a serious underlying problem”.

He said the quality of cover held by thousands of members was “a far cry from what they had in place previously. On the back of spiralling rates over the past seven years, consumers now have to contend with limited hospital coverage, high excesses, and significant shortfalls for the likes of orthopaedic cover.”

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

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