Health insurance cost a worry to one in 10

THE rising cost of private health insurance and limitations of cover are of serious concern to one in 10 consumers, a study has shown.

And four out of 10 people believe recent price increases are neither appropriate nor justified by the cost of treatment and service.

The study was commissioned by the Health Insurance Authority (HIA).

Despite their worries, only 10% of consumers have changed their private health insurer while a further 13% have considered switching.

HIA chief executive Liam Sloyan insisted Ireland had a competitive private health insurance market.

“There are choices out there and, if people are dissatisfied, they can look around. We have information on our website [] that will, hopefully, assist them in doing that,” he said.

The study by the state’s private health insurance watchdog showed newer private insurer entrants to the market continuing to gain market share with Quinn Direct securing about 20%.

Quinn acquired health insurer BUPA Ireland in January last year. BUPA had a 13% share of the market in 2003 and increased it to 17% in 2005.

Vivas Health, which entered the market in 2004, has a 6% share, up from 1% in 2005.

VHI’s market share is 70%, down from 82% in 2003 and 76% in 2005.

Restricted membership schemes for ESB workers and the gardaí make up the remaining 4% of the market.

Mr Sloyan said the study discovered a lot of people found it difficult to compare the various products on the market: “We have published on our website details of the products available on the market and the prices. We have set them out in such a way that, hopefully, consumers will find it useful and easy to shop around.”

But the primary reason for a low level of people switching insurers was 45% of consumers are satisfied, while 27% remain reluctant having been with their current insurer for a long period.

However, the study found 15% of all large employers have switched their main health insurance provider with an additional 27% having giving it consideration.

More than 80% of 200 large employers which operate health insurance schemes participated in the study. They regarded health insurance as an important benefit for employees.

The study further shows almost six out of 10 of the workplace group schemes were either fully or partially paid by the employers. But 64% do not offer a choice of insurer.

The percentage of people with private health insurance varies by age and by income group.

The lowest level of private health insurance ownership is in the 18 to 24 age group, with only 39% having private health insurance.

The study found that a growing number of people appear to be delaying taking out health insurance until they are older and more likely to need it.

The 35 to 54 age group has the highest level of health insurance at 57% but decreases to 42% in the 65-plus age bracket.


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