Number with private health insurance surges

Additional 97,000 join schemes, bringing total insured in Republic to 2.12m or 46%

The private health insurance market is the largest non-life market with total premiums of €2.45bn in 2015. Photograph: Getty Images

The private health insurance market is the largest non-life market with total premiums of €2.45bn in 2015. Photograph: Getty Images

 

An additional 97,000 signed up for private health insurance last year compared with 2014, reversing a trend where the number of those insured had been falling since 2009.

The figures, contained in the Health Insurance Authority’s 2015 annual report, bring the total number of those insured to 2.12 million or 46 per cent of the population.

The report says the increase can be attributed to the introduction of the lifetime community rating regime on May 1st, which put pressure on people to enter the market.

The scheme meant anyone aged over 34 without private health insurance would have to pay higher premiums in the event 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 report noted other factors to account for the increase, include changes to discounted premium rates for young adults and reduced waiting periods for older ages.

Since the beginning of 2009, the number with insurance had been continuously falling from a previous peak of 2.3 million, or 50.9 per cent of the population, in 2008.

The report also showed the private health insurance market is the largest non-life market with total premiums of €2.45 billion in 2015. Claims paid per insured person increased by 6.5 per cent. The average premium paid fell 2 per cent to €1,173.

Health Insurance Authority chief executive Don Gallagher said “a number of factors” underlie the reduction in premiums, including more taking out private health insurance.

Shopped around

The authority’s financial statements show it made a loss of €1.9 million last year, compared with a profit of €1.6 million in 2014. The losses can be attributed to the last government’s reduction in the authority’s levy, which led to income generated by it falling from €2.8 million to €235,404.

The report also shows that the private health insurance market has continued to age, with 33 per cent of the population in the age category 18-29 years having insurance, compared with 43 per cent coverage across all ages, and 52 per cent coverage in the 60-74 age bracket. VHI had the largest share of the market with 53 per cent, but it also represents 83 per cent of the insured population over 80 years old.