Health cover costs likely to rise again as reliefs cut
HEALTH insurance costs are likely to rise even further, after the move to reduce the tax relief on policies and to charge insurers more for using public hospitals.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan said his move to cap the tax relief for health insurance policies would only impact on "gold-plated" plans.
But this was disputed by insurance experts.
The Minister said: "In relation to medical insurance relief, I have decided to cap the amount of premium on which tax relief will be available to €1,000 per adult and €500 per child.
"This will restrict the exposure of the Exchequer in relation to premiums paid for 'gold-plated' medical insurance policies, while not affecting the majority of individuals who avail of more standard levels of medical cover."
Mr Noonan said a family of two adults and four children will still receive tax relief on premiums of up to €4,000 a year.
"Only the portion of any premium that exceeds the new thresholds will not qualify for tax relief," he said.
However, health insurance expert Dermot Goode said the measures would impact on those even if they have plans that are reasonably priced.
"It's highly likely that a lot of health insurance members on low-cost level, or corporate, plans could find themselves getting dragged into this loss of tax relief," he said.
He estimated that someone on a plan that costs a consumer less than €1,000 will be hit. This is because the gross cost of this plan will be around €1,243 due to the complicated way tax relief is applied to health policies.
He said the net result was that a single adult will pay an additional €50, or 5pc more.
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said an additional €30m will be raised by imposing higher charges on insurers for using private beds in public hospitals. Health insurance experts said this was likely to be passed on to consumers, who have already been hit by a series of hikes.
Across the market, there have been cumulative premium increases of between 10pc and 27pc, depending on the plan, since last October.
And the cost of health insurance has doubled in the past two years, and now averages €2,500 a year for two adults and two children.
This steady rise in the cost of cover has caused almost a quarter of a million people to ditch the insurance since the peak of the boom, official figures show.
The body that represents health insurers said the change to tax reliefs for policies will impact on 90pc of all health insurance products.
Insurance Ireland's Michael Horan said the change would not just hit "gold-plated" policies.