About 64,000 people gave up their private health insurance cover last year.
At the end of December there were 2,099,000 people covered by in-patient private health insurance plans.
The latest figures from the Health Insurance Authority show that 10,000 cancelled their health insurance in the last three months of 2012.
The market peaked at 2,297,000 in 2008, and has been falling every year since then.
At the end of 2009 there were 2,260,000 people with private insurance in-patient plans; 2,228,000 in 2010; and 2,163,000 in 2011.
Based on CSO population estimates for Apr 2012, 45.8% of the population had in-patient health insurance plans, down from the 2008 peak of 50.9%.
Insurance premiums paid in 2012 totalled €2.23bn, a 9% increase on the previous year.
The average premium paid per insured person, including children, last year was €1,048 (€838 net of tax relief at source), an increase of 12% from 2011.
VHI Healthcare said premiums across 50 plans would increase by between 4% and 8.5% on Mar 1.
Laya Healthcare increased premiums on 25 plans by between 4% and 13% on Jan 1, and recently announced that it is to increase premiums at the end of this month by 6% to 16.5%.
Aviva Health is to increase premiums at the end of the month by up to 6.4%.
There are 101,000 people with insurance that solely provides out-patient benefits or health insurance cash plans.
Dermot Goode of healthinsurancesavings.ie said he was surprised that more people had not cancelled their in-patient private health insurance last year.
At the start of 2012 he had predicted a reduction of between 80,000 and 90,000 in the number of insured people by year end.
Mr Goode, who was speaking on RTÉ radio, said younger people — those aged between 25 and 34 — and particularly those with young families, were dropping their insurance cover.
“They are leaving in their droves because they can no longer afford it. Thousands of people managed to stay in last year but I think they are being priced out of the market,” he said.
He said parents of young families who had got cover for their children for free or at half price were finding that the child insurance offers had been withdrawn when they went to renew their insurance cover.
“As well as having to pay for insurance cover for their children, they are also faced with increases of about 20% for adult cover,” he said.
Mr Goode said he noticed from the figures that there had been an increase in those over the age of 60 with in-patient health insurance plan.
“It shows that, as people get older, they are really valuing their insurance and are going to do everything they can to stay insured.”
Mr Goode said there were still good plans available for about €850 and he advised consumers to shop around.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved
More in this section