Having the right health insurance coverage is becoming more important for customers than the cost, the Health Insurance Authority has found.
The private health insurance market increased by 2.1% last year to 2.22m, with 45% of the population having some form of cover.
The number of insured people has increased every year since 2014 reflecting the ongoing market stability and Ireland's growing economy.
The peak in numbers insured was 2.3m in 2008, when 51% of the population was covered.
The complexity of the market remains high, making it very difficult for consumers to navigate their way through.
The authority's annual report shows that insurers continue to adjust individual product benefits and prices and adding new services and features.
The number of products available also increased last year from 328 to 333.
“That is why it is extremely important that consumers are pro-active in reviewing their policy benefits at renewal,” said the authority's chief executive, Don Gallagher.
The HIA has found that older consumers want a better level of hospital coverage compared to young consumers and may be more reluctant to switch plans and/or insurers.
A survey of insurance switchers found that 54% mentioned price as a factor in 2017, a significant drop from 65% in 2015, with benefits, cover and service considerations becoming more important.
The HIA's website received over 529,000 visitors last year. It continues to provide its website comparison tool and dedicated consumer helpline.
Premium income last year was €2.85bn, compared to €2.66bn in 2017.
More than €738m was redistributed under the Risk Equalisation Scheme last year, up from €668m the previous year.
The average amount paid for a health insurance premium for in-patient cover decreased by almost 1% - from €1,220 in 2017 to €1,210 last year.
However, child premiums and young adult discounts have a lowering effect on the average premium.
Over the last five years, overall consumer price inflation has been close to zero.
The average of claims paid per insured person increased by 3% last year, following a 1% decrease last year.
VHI Healthcare's market share was 50% at the end of last year; Laya Healthcare's share was 26% and Irish Health had 20%, with restricted membership undertakings making up the balance with 4%.