Warning over huge hikes in health insurance costs

Consumers have been warned to expect double-digit premium hikes on their health insurance in 2017.

Health insurance expert Dermot Goode, founder of Totalhealthcover, said that up to 400,000 Irish people with health insurance plans were due to receive notices of renewal this month alone for 2017 and claimed that they would face “massive price hikes” unless they shopped around the market and studied available health plans.

Up to 45% of all those with health insurance will receive renewal notices this month, or in the first quarter of next year, according to the firm.

Providers such as VHI Healthcare, Laya Healthcare, Irish Life Health, and GloHealth have all announced that they will increase prices from the beginning of the new year.

Figures provided by the statutory regulator of the private health insurance market in Ireland, the Health Insurance Authority (HIA), reveal that average premia in 2016 cost €1,174 per person.

Despite advice by consumer activists to shop around, a HIA survey in 2015 showed that just 24% of Irish health insurance policyholders have switched provider at any time since taking out private health insurance.

A total of 70% made no change in the level of cover they have in the previous two years, and 80% had no plans to change their cover in the next 12 months.

Official figures show that 2.14m people were insured with inpatient health insurance plans at the end of September, an increase of 7,000 over the preceding three months.

Based on Central Statistics Office population estimates, 45.7% of the population had inpatient health insurance plans at the end of September. It is down from the 2008 peak of almost 51%, with 2.3m people insured.

A report by the Society of Actuaries in Ireland in October said the growth in average private health insurance premiums has consistently outstripped economic growth over time. It said they are likely to continue to rise.

It showed that, between 2010 and 2015, premium rises by insurers resulted in a 65% increase in the Health Insurance Premium Index as calculated by the CSO.

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