Health insurance costs fell last year but are set to shoot up this year

State owned insurer Vhi is the largest player in the health insurance market.

Charlie Weston

PEOPLE with health insurance saw their premiums fall last year, but this situation is set to be reversed this year after the three main insurers announced a string of price hikes.

And there has been a rise in the numbers with health insurance, according to the regulator for the sector, the Health Insurance Authority (HIA).

It said the over-65s continue to overpay for their cover, with a typical older person paying 42pc more than the average for health insurance.

This indicates they may not be on the most cost-effective plan for their needs, the authority said in its 2022 annual report.

The average premium last year was €1,488, a decrease of 1.2pc on 2021.

Average premiums for people under the age of 65 fell by just short of 1pc last year.

And for those over the age of 65, the average premium was down by 2.4pc,

“This could be due to new entrants or existing policy holders choosing lower cost plans, as well as insurers passing on the reduction in the 2022 Stamp Duty via lower prices,” the HIA said.

But it added: “However, over 65s are paying on average 42pc more for health insurance, and therefore may not be on the cost- effective plan for their needs.”

All three health insurers have announced price rises this year, with Irish Life Health announcing two rises this year.

The combination of the two increases could mean some Irish Life Health families will end up paying an additional €300 when they renew.

Vhi and Laya Healthcare have both announced price hikes, with warnings that there could be more premium rises.

Vhi increased by average 4.8pc in March and Laya by average 4.4pc on April 1.

The regulator said that health insurance coverage continues to grow, with 47pc of people in Ireland holding health insurance, a 3.4 percentage points increase on 2021.

The report also finds that at the start of 2023, there were 327 plans in the market.

However, half of those with health insurance are on one of just 27 plans.

Another third are on just one of five of the most popular plans with each insurer.

This shows that although there are almost 330 plans in the market, the choice between plans is concentrated, the HIA said.

Last year the number of children insured continued to decrease, and now stands at 22pc of all those with insurance.

The report shows that 4pc of people paying Lifetime Community Rating (LCR) loading on premium. This is where the over 35s are penalised for taking up cover, as an incentive to get more young people to buy health insurance.

Vhi Healthcare had the largest market share last year with 48.4pc.

This is down from a 70pc market share 15 years ago.

HIA chief executive Laura Brien said: “While average premiums declined in 2022, all three insurers have increased their prices in 2023.

“We would always encourage health insurance customers to review their policies before they renew, and to use the free comparison tool on the HIA website to compare plans to see if they can save any money on their premium.”

She said the HIA offers impartial information to consumers on their health insurance options.