The average cost of insurance with Laya Healthcare is to climb by almost 3 per cent from the start of next year despite the level of claims falling during the Covid-19 crisis.
The company said the average price increase would add about €35 onto each policy, meaning a family of four could end up paying more than €100 extra in 2021 when compared with this year.
The company said "a significant increase in the overall cost and volume of claims are the main factors driving this review." It pointed to a recent Mercer Marsh Benefits report which said medical costs in Ireland were now running at six times the rate of general inflation.
In a statement, the company said in a 12-month period to December 2019, it experienced an increase in the volume of claims of 8 per cent while the overall cost of claims rose by 6 per cent.
It said advances in medical treatments and technology were driving significant increases in the cost of claims in private and hi-tech hospitals, with a 11 per cent increase in cost, “an upward trend that has been sustained in 2020 despite the disruption in access to private hospitals during Covid-19”.
It added that over the same period outpatient claim costs increased by 14 per cent, as more members use their everyday healthcare benefits which provide cover for things such as a GP or consultant visit, scans, therapy and more.
The company’s managing director Dónal Clancy said the increase was “necessary in order to ensure that we can meet the future healthcare needs of our members, including improving access to new technologies, drugs and procedures that will deliver better medical outcomes”.
He said better medical practices and improved treatments were all translating into better patient outcomes “they continue to drive medical costs higher, which in turn is having a sustained impact on premiums”.
He pointed out that last April when private hospitals were effectively subsumed into the public system it returned some money to 600,000 members.
“We went even further and provided unlimited access to our members to essential healthcare services including video consultations with GPs, physios and 24/7 access to mental wellbeing experts” which he stressed had been delivered at no additional cost.
In its statement Laya said that increased benefits including access to GPs, physios and health and wellbeing experts in areas such as financial, parenting and nutrition would be extended until the end of 2021.
Last March, the State’s largest health insurer VHI increased its prices by an average of 2 per cent across a range of plans.