660,000 could drop their health insurance

More than 660,000 people could drop their health insurance if premiums increase between 1% and 10%, campaigners for more affordable health insurance have warned.

A survey by One Big Switch of its 9,000-plus members found that the crisis in health insurance affordability could become far worse if premiums continue to increase.

Feedback from more than 5,000 private health insurance policyholders indicates that one in three would give up their cover if premiums rise by 1% to 10%.

If one in three policyholders drop their cover, the market would lose more than 660,000 people, adding to the strain the market is already under.

Figures from the Health Insurance Authority indicate that the number of people with health insurance is set to drop below 2m for the first time in a decade.

The figures show there were 2,017,000 people with private health insurance plans at the end of June. In the three months to June, 11,000 people scrapped their plans, bringing to 41,000 the number who have got rid of health insurance in the year to date.

The market peaked at almost 2.3m at the end of 2008.

Dermot Goode of www.totalhealthcover.ie  predicted that over the full year, 55,000 to 60,000 people are likely to cancel their cover. He pointed out that most of those are aged between 25 and 34 — the very customers insurance firms need to keep.

“I think the One Big Switch survey is a further wake-up call to the Government to consider ways of easing this consumer pressure,” said Mr Goode.

“There are plans by the Government to introduce certain measures early next year. They need to accelerate those plans now.”

One Big Switch pointed out that since the health insurance market’s peak in 2008, more than 280,000 people have given up their cover; in the same period, premiums rose 58%.

The average premium paid in 2013 was €1,150, compared to €729 in 2008.

The One Big Switch survey found that:

-45% of those who dropped their cover are aged 18 to 32;

-Of those who kept their cover, three out of five experienced negative impacts because of so many dropping out of the market.

A Health Insurance Authority survey found that nearly two thirds of people who had given up their cover had done so because it was too expensive or they could not afford it.

One Big Switch recently launched the Big Health Insurance Switch, aimed at unlocking more affordable health insurance. It wants 25,000 people to join up so it can use consumer power to unlock more affordable health insurance offers.

One Big Switch director of campaigns Sarah Ryan said joining up to www.OneBigSwitch.ie  was cost and obligation free.


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