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Sunday 24 September 2017

Aviva to raise health premiums despite surge in new members

Firms creating confusion: Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath
Firms creating confusion: Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

Health insurer Aviva will push up premiums later in the summer - despite thousands of new customers joining the market this year.

The firm will today announce rises of 5.5pc on 106 plans, with some going up by 15pc, the Irish Independent has learned.

The company's Health Value Plan will be €227 more expensive for a family of two adults and two children from July 1. One plan, Select More, will be up to €470 more expensive for a family.

Aviva also pushed through hikes at the start of this year.

Rivals Laya and VHI have frozen prices this year, with some Laya plans going down in price.

The Aviva move comes despite an additional 74,000 people taking out health cover across all four insurers in April to beat new levies being applied on those over the age of 35.

Financial experts had argued that the larger-than-expected numbers who took out cover last month would put huge pressure on insurers to avoid premium hikes.

So-called life-time community rating came into effect at the start of this month, with penalties being imposed on the over 35s who take out cover for the first time.

But Aviva said claims for medical procedures continue to rise, and members were downgrading to cheaper policies.

Chief executive of Aviva Health James Parker insisted the rises were necessary.

"We have tried to keep this increase as low as possible. As a health insurer, we must provision adequately to pay our members claims which have a direct impact on premiums."

He said the rises were needed despite the "welcome influx" of new members from the life-time community rating changes.

Aviva is not hiking premiums on 32 of its plans, and it is adding benefits to a number of plans. Some plans will now offer access to the Beacon Hospital in Dublin, with others GP consultations on smartphones.

Dermot Goode of TotalHealthCover.ie said his information was that VHI and Laya had no plans to copy Aviva with July premium rises, but it was unclear what Glo would do.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that there are now 381 different health insurance plans on the market.

This is up from 213 in 2010, a rise of 168 in just five years.

Fianna Fáil's Michael McGrath, who obtained the information, said: "Far from helping consumers, the increased number of private medical insurance products is creating confusion and making it harder for them to find the right level of cover for their family."

Irish Independent

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