Health insurers are making one last push to get thousands of younger people to sign up by again cutting the cost of cover and offering discounts for those in their 20s.
New late-entry levies on health insurance policies will kick in after the end of this month. This will see those over the age of 34 paying penalties on their premiums if they take out health insurance for the first time.
The four health insurers are now hoping that up to 60,000 people will be forced to take out health cover for the first time to avoid the penalties.
In a bid to capture the new recruits, two of the insurers have cut the cost of entry-level policies.
Laya Healthcare is launching Assure First at a cost of €395 per adult, with free cover for children, according to broker Dermot Goode of TotalHealthCover.ie. The plan covers all public hospitals, but not private ones. Most entry-level plans only cover a select number of public hospitals.
And GloHealth has just lunched Base Lite which costs €394 a year for adults and covers most public hospitals.
The plan includes a semi-private room in selected public hospitals, but subscribers must pay the hospital bill first and claim the cost back off the insurer, Mr Goode said.
All four insurers are now offering discounts of up to 50pc for those in their 20s, he said.
From the start of May, discounts of 50pc will be on offer for 21-year-olds, falling to 10pc for 25-year-olds.
A change in the law last year means insurers can offer discounts to those in their 20s.
Mr Goode added: "Student rates are being abolished, but there will still be reduced pricing available from all insurers for adults between 18 and 20."
There are just two weeks left before new penalties come in for those who leave it until they are over 34 to take out cover for the first time.
Health insurers have yet to see a surge in new business, but Mr Goode said he did not expect a rise in premiums if an avalanche of new members fails to materialise.
And he warned that the new entry-level schemes are not high-quality insurance plans.
Many of these plans do not cover all public hospitals, so consumers need to ensure their preferred hospital is on the list.
"Basically, the insurers have stripped everything possible off these plans to achieve these rates. If your sole objective is to avoid the loadings, then you should consider one of the entry-level plans," Mr Goode said.
He added that the new low-cost plans cover the public hospital charge of €75 per night, which is a maximum of €750 every 12 months.
The new entry-level plans also cover the private charge in public hospitals of €813 per night. But those who want quality cover for public and private hospitals would need to spend at least €890 a year per adult, he said.