A national insurance claims database will not be up and running this year and is more likely a year away, according to the Financial Services and Insurance Minister.
Michael D’Arcy told TDs and senators at the Oireachtas Finance Committee that the database — long mooted by insurance reform advocates as essential to tackling spiraling costs — would depend on legislation being introduced in the Dáil and Seanad this year, with a view to implementing it in 2019.
Highlighting claim trends and patterns is seen as vital in analysing why insurance premiums in public and employers’ liability have gone up sharply in recent years.
The committee last week heard how marts around the country faced closure because of increased insurance costs, while raised premiums had eaten up GAA club budgets, men’s shed funds, and even children’s charities’ grant allocations.
Mr D’Arcy said that he acknowledged that there was frustration at the perceived lack of progress in insurance reform, but that he was “not sure we could do it better if we do it faster”.
He said insurance companies were making a calculation that it was cheaper to settle claims than going through courts, even if there was suspicion that some claims were illegitimate.
“As awards go up, so do premiums. If you have a high awards sector, you will have high premiums,” he said.
Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty said it was “deeply disappointing” that there would be no database for another year, while Senator Rose Conway Walsh said there had been “all these inputs but no outcomes”.
“They [insurance companies] are still getting away with this crazy, crazy situation,” she said.
Senator Kieran O’Donnell said there was conflicting explanations from the insurance and legal industries as to the cost of insurance payouts.
“FBD is saying costs are going up in legal fees but we’ve been told by personal injury people that claims are going down,” he said.
The committee last week heard that “legal extortion” of crippling insurance premiums meant the GAA has seen its insurance bill double in the past five years.
Some 75 festivals around the country have been scrapped in the past two years because of premiums, while some charities saw a 100% rise in a year.