Average health insurance premium increases by 4% despite 'steep reduction' in claims

The price of health insurance premiums continue to rise as almost €415m was refunded to customers last year due to reduced access to private health facilities
Average health insurance premium increases by 4% despite 'steep reduction' in claims

Claims for nights spent in hospital declined drastically. File photo

There has been a “steep reduction” in health insurance claims in the past 12 months due to ongoing public health restrictions as a result of the pandemic.

Despite an increase in private health policy uptake by the Irish population, the overall level of insurance claims has dropped by 29%, according to the Health Insurance Authority (HIA).

However, the average premium paid per person has increased by 4% when compared with the same period las year as all three of the open market insurers have raised their prices in the last few months.

Claims for nights spent in hospital declined drastically from 1,134,955 in the 12 months to March 2020 to 804,067 in the 12 months to March of this year.

The number of claims for day-case treatments also dropped by 28% with 616,460 claims made in the 12 months to the end of March 2020 while there were 442,659 in the same period this year.

New figures released by the HIA show that over 2.3m people - 46.4% of the population - have private health insurance in Ireland.

An additional 38,000 people took out a private health insurance policy over the pandemic as of April 2020 to March of this year, representing a 1.6% increase compared to the previous 12 months.

Laura Brien, Chief Executive of the HIA said although the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic was “clearly visible on the market with a steep reduction in claims,” some elements are beginning to return to normal again as day-case treatment numbers have almost rebounded to pre-Covid levels.

“The monthly average claims in the three months to March 2021 was approximately 48,000 per month. This compared to a monthly average of approximately 52,000 in the three months to March 2020,” she said.

In contrast, though, the number of claims relating to nights spent in hospital continue to remain below their pre-Covid level with the monthly average treatment night claims for the first three months of 2021 being 69,181 compared to 89,000 nights in the corresponding three months of last year.

This 22% decrease occurred when the HSE had contracted for access to private hospitals in response to a surge in Covid cases at the time.

To compensate for the reduction in access to private health facilities, a combined total of approximately €415m was refunded to customers in 2020 by three insurance companies, representing about 15% of premiums paid in 2020.

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