Families insured by Laya Healthcare can expect to pay anywhere between €150 and €450 extra per annum from April 1, following a decision by the private health insurer to hike charges for a second time this year, writes Catherine Shanahan.
A spokesperson for Laya confirmed that an average price hike of 5.9% will apply across 124 of its 129 plans from that date.
Dermot Goode, an independent expert on healthcare benefits, said when the Laya hike is taken together with a pending hike in the Government health insurance levy, also effective from next month, the average cost of health insurance for a family of two children and two adults will increase by anything from €150 to €450.
Under legislation passed last year, the levy in respect of products providing advanced cover will rise from €403 to €444 per adult and from €134 to €144 per child. Mr Goode, of totalhealthcover.ie, said these levy hikes would apply across 85% of plans.
Laya has blamed the “significant and unsustainable increase in the volume and cost of claims in public and private hospitals” as one of the main factors driving the hike, which it says is “largely attributable to the Public Bed Re-designation Charges. Laya claims the latter is costing insurers €200 million a year.
Under the Public Bed Re-designation Charge, those with private health insurance are being charged up to €813 per night for a stay in a public bed. This is 10 times more than the public patient charge for an equivalent public bed which is €80 per night. Mr Goode said it was imperative that private patients did not sign a form waiving their right to be treated as a public patient, if the hospital did not have the capacity to treat them as a private patient.
“Consumers need to realise that they don’t have to sign the form. By signing it, they can be sure their insurance will go up 5% every year,” he said.
Laya managing director Dónal Clancy said every health insurance provider had been negatively impacted by the Public Beds Re-designation Charge.
Laya is reducing prices across its Assure Suite, and Free Kids cover for second and subsequent children will be reintroduced in seven schemes. It is the country’s second-largest health insurer with 516,000 customers. This is its fourth price hike in less than two years.
This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner.