Almost 46% of population have private health insurance

The number of people with private health insurance has risen for two years in a row, with trends showing a further 30,000 covered by inpatient plans last year than in 2015.

Almost 46% of the population now have private health insurance.

The growth is highlighted in the 2016 annual report from the Health Insurance Authority (HIA). It shows the market continued to recover last year with an increase in the number of lives insured to 2.15m.

Average claims paid per insured person rose by 1% over the year, following a 6.5% increase in 2015 and a 3% increase in 2014.

The average payment for inpatient cover rose marginally from €1,173 in 2015 to €1,177 last year.

HIA chief executive Don Gallagher said the market saw two straight years of increase in the number of insured persons.

The market had peaked in December 2008 with 2.3m insured.

Since the market low of 2,025m at the end of 2014, the number of individuals with private health insurance had increased by 127,000.

Mr Gallagher said the increase had been proportionally greater among younger people.

The number of those insured aged below 50 increased by 85,000, compared to a rise of 62,000 among those who were older.

“Premiums for specific products varied more widely but the effects of consumer activity such as switching products mitigated individual product increases,” said Mr Gallagher.

There were 373 health insurance products with inpatient benefits marketed at the end of last year, an increase on the 360 sold the previous year.

The authority believes a review of the regulations specifying minimum benefit levels that each product must provide could reduce the range of techniques used by insurers to segment consumers and differentiate product prices by life stage, which can undermine the principle of community rating.

VHI Healthcare had the largest overall market share at 52% with 81% of the insured population aged over 80. Irish Life Health (including GloHealth) had 21% of the overall market and Laya Healthcare had 27%.

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