THOUSANDS of families are expected to drop their health insurance after more price rises and higher costs were imposed by Health Minister James Reilly.
Up to 100,000 people will ditch cover in response to a tripling in the cost over the five years, experts warned.
The bleak forecast came after Aviva became the second insurer to push up prices for those renewing policies from January. It comes just days after the announcement of similar increases from GloHealth.
Health experts said more rises could be expected as the Government has made a number of changes which have hit insurers with higher costs.
Laya, the second largest player in the market, is set to increase its premiums in the coming days.
VHI insisted it has no plans to announce a rise before the new year, but is expected to hike premiums then.
Insurance expert Dermot Goode, of healthinsurancesavings.ie, said 100,000 people would stop paying for private cover as a result of the rises.
Mr Goode said all insurers would now impose cumulative rises of up to 20pc in the coming weeks.
Aviva said it was raising the costs on all but three of its plans.
The premiums are going up by an average of 5.2pc, with some plans rising by 11pc.
This means that from January it will cost thousands of families between €120 and €260 extra a year to stay insured.
Aviva said it regretted the increases, blaming recent changes in government policy on public hospital bed charges and the increase in the cost of claims due to younger people exiting the market.
Some 150,000 people under 50 have left the market since 2008, but an additional 51,000 people over the age of 60 have taken out health cover for the first time, according to Health Insurance Authority (HIA) figures.
The rises come weeks after the Budget restricted the tax reliefs on policies.
And from March, Government-imposed levies on policies will rise by €49 per adult and €15 per child. Health insurers have also been told to pay an extra €130m to the HSE for the use of public beds.
The Health Insurance Council, which represents the industry, said the minister had "reneged" on previous commitments to keep the new charges at €30m.
Kevin Thompson, of the council, said anyone with health insurance who uses a public bed in a public hospital will be charged €852 a night for it.
This compares with €75 a night at the moment, and the move will push up premiums.
"Those who have taken responsibility for their healthcare by paying for insurance in very challenging times are now being punished," Mr Thompson added.