200,000 quit health cover as firms hike premiums
UP to 200,000 people have dropped health insurance cover since the downturn began in 2008.
The past four years have also seen premiums doubled, putting huge pressure on families to maintain payments for private health insurance.
In the last year alone some 64,000 have stopped paying for health insurance with VHI, Laya, Aviva and GloHealth.
There are now 2.1 million people who have private health insurance, according to figures released by the Health Insurance Authority (HIA) yesterday. This represents around 46pc of the population, the HIA said.
The cost of health cover has been spiralling, with insurers now announcing multiple increases each year.
This has seen the cost of VHI's Plan B, which is now called Healthcare Plus, jump from €665 for an adult in 2008 to €1,364.
Last week Laya Healthcare announced rises on 27 different plans, in a move that will leave families paying as much as €400 extra for health insurance in the new year.
Almost half a million customers of the private health insurer will be hit with the rises of between 3pc and 14pc from January 1.
The increases are the first of what is expected to be a slew of premium hikes from its competitors VHI, Aviva and Glo.
The Laya price rise announcement was in the same week that VHI Healthcare pushed up its premiums by 3pc, and comes ahead of the Budget, which is expected to add to the cost of private healthcare.
And last month Aviva increased the premiums on its policies by between 4pc and 7pc.
Laya blamed the fact that increasing numbers of its 450,000 members are making claims and cited the spiralling cost of medical treatments for the price increases.
Today, Laya will also increase premiums on four other plans.
VHI imposed a general price rise averaging 3pc on adults' premiums in November.
VHI alone has had five rises since January 2009, putting massive pressure on household budgets. Meanwhile, Health Minister James Reilly may again hike the cost of a private bed in a public hospital as part of the Budget.
This would have a knock-on impact on health insurance costs, forcing more premium rises.
A new set of higher levies on all private healthcare policies, which is part of a revamp of risk-equalisation rules, has been delayed until March.
And it emerged last week that the main health insurers have launched a range of new health plans to lure companies that pay for policies on behalf of their staff – but families are not being told about these offers.
Some of these plans have had prices slashed by as much as €150 per person.