HEALTH insurers should be allowed to offer big discounts to young adults to stop them ditching their cover, the industry regulator says.
The rules do not allow health insurance companies to charge younger people less than older customers, even though older people are more expensive to insure.
This is known as community rating, and means that everyone pays the same price for a similar level of cover irrespective of their age and the state of their health.
But now the regulator for the sector has recommended that this strict community-rating rule should be partly relaxed.
The Health Insurance Authority (HIA) made the recommendation to Health Minister James Reilly because those between the ages of 18 and 29 are leaving the market in their droves.
In the year to July, just short of 24,000 people between the ages of 18 and 29 ditched their health cover. This represented one in 10 of those between 18 and 29.
There are now 217,588 people between 18 and 29 with health cover, according to a HIA report prepared for the minister. Insurers are allowed to offer discounts to full-time dependent students who are between the ages of 18 and 23.
The HIA recommended: "To incentivise young adults to take out private health insurance in their own right, insurers could be allowed the option of charging adults aged 18 to 29 discounted adult rates."
The report also says that lifetime community rating should be introduced. This would see people over 30 who take out health cover for the first time paying more than someone who has insurance for a number of years.