We are spending less on health insurance, with the average premium paid last year €1,173 — a 2% decline on €1,200 in 2014.
The Health Insurance Authority (HIA) has listed three reasons for the lower average spend on cover last year.
Topping the list is the introduction of low-cost private health insurance plans with a limited range of benefits in the run-up to the introduction of lifetime community rating in May 2015.
However, there was also a recovery in the number of people insured, as well as the introduction of young adult discounts.
The HIA’s 2015 report, just published, shows average claims paid per insured person increased by 6.5% last year and followed a 3% increase in 2014.
Factors underlying the growth include charging rate changes for patients with private health cover in private hospitals.
The average rate of increase between 2008 and 2012 was 12.6%. The insurance regulator points out that consumer price and health sector inflation was near zero over the last two years.
HIA chief executive, Don Gallagher, said improvements in the wider economy also helped the market for private health insurance.
The number insured at the end of last year was 2.12m, or 46% of the population, an increase of 97,000 from the previous year.
In 2008 the number of people with private health insurance peaked at 51%.
“This turnaround was due to a combination of factors including rising employment in the economy and the introduction of lifetime community rating,” he said.
The private health insurance market continues to age with 33% of the population in the 18-29 age category, compared with 43% coverage across all ages and 52% coverage among those aged between 50 and 74.
However, the trend appears to have slowed due to factors including the introduction of age-related loading introduced with lifetime community rating.
VHI had the largest overall share with 53% of the private health insurance market, but it also has 83% of the insured population over 80 years of age.
“At the end of 2015, there were 360 private health insurance products being marketed, a marginal increase on 355 at the end of 2014,” said Mr Gallagher.
“Consumers should really be checking their current cover and pricing at least every two years to make sure they are receiving value from the market,” he said.
The authority monitors and regulates the private health insurance market in Ireland.
Last year, some 435,000 consumer contacts were made with the HIA, mostly through its website, hia.ie, which has a product comparison tool of all health insurance plans.
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