VHI has half of market as number of insured grows
THE number of consumers with private health insurance has continued to rise as the public health service battles to contain spending.
Some 2.22 million people, or 45pc of the population of Ireland, had private health insurance at the end of 2018, according to the Health Insurance Authority's annual report. It marks a 2.1pc increase over the number in 2017.
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The number of people with private health insurance has risen every year since 2014.
During the downturn, health insurance was ditched by some consumers as their household budgets were hit.
The Health Insurance Authority's annual report confirms that VHI remains the single biggest private health insurer in the State, with a 50pc share of the market at the end of 2018.
Laya Healthcare was next, with a 26pc share, while Irish Life Health had 20pc.
The total premium income across the sector in Ireland was €2.85bn last year, compared with €2.66bn in 2017.
In June, VHI announced that it was hiking its fees by 6pc from this month.
It said the increase followed a period of price reductions and insisted the rise was necessary to "provide our customers with better healthcare now and into the future".
VHI said it paid out €1.32bn in claims last year.
The Health Insurance Authority said that the average amount paid for a health insurance premium for in- patient cover dipped 0.8pc last year, to €1,210.
The authority's chief executive, Don Gallagher, said the increase in the number of people with health insurance reflects ongoing market stability and Ireland's growing economy.
"The market as a whole continues to age as a result of population demographics and market penetration rates that vary by age," he added.
"Insurers continue to adjust individual product benefits and prices, and adding new services and features, so that the complexity of the market for consumers remains high."
The authority noted in its annual report that the proportion of the population with health insurance varies significantly by age, while older consumers also pay more.
"The combined effect of targeted product features and the difference in premiums for different products means that those over the age of 60 pay, on average, premiums that are 30pc higher than the premiums paid by those under the age of 60 for the most popular levels of cover," it noted.
Older consumers are likely to have more orthopaedic cover, typically available only in more expensive policies.