Lifetime community rating means people over the age of 34 who miss the deadline to purchase in-patient private health insurance will have to pay a loaded premium, up to a maximum of 70%, for the rest of their life.
Health insurance expert with totalhealthcover.ie, Dermot Goode, said the “avalanche” of calls started in the middle of last week.
“The peak that the insurance companies had been expecting has materialised, with some getting a week’s web traffic in an afternoon,” said Mr Goode.
“I think the penny has definitely dropped and, typical of the Irish, everybody is leaving it to the last minute.”
Health insurance analyst and founder of Lyons Financial Services, Roisín Lyons, said they had seen business quadruple in the past week.
“It’s crazy busy, but not to the extent that the market had expected,” said Ms Lyons.
General manager of the health section of Cornmarket Group Financial Services, Dermot Welles, thought the final number of new customers would be between 35,000 and 50,000, not the expected 100,000.
“We are mainly seeing customers, who had cover and maybe let it lapse due to financial pressures, returning to the market,” he said.
Mr Welles said people who never had cover accounted for about 30% of inquiries.
The VHI said weekly sales traffic was up over 800% on the same time last year.
Aviva said it was experiencing high volumes of new business, with the insurer being contacted by people from across all age groups.
Laya Healthcare was also very busy, but pointed out that 25% of those without health insurance were still undecided about taking out private health cover.
In any event, Health Minister Leo Varadkar has said there will be no extension to the insurance loading date.