Saturday 19 January 2019

Number of people switching health insurance slows

Stock picture
Stock picture

Charlie Weston, Personal Finance Editor

There has been a levelling off in the number of people switching health insurance

This is despite an average family paying close to €2,000 each a year for cover.

A report prepared for regulator, the Health Insurance Authority (HIA), shows that less than one in four of those with health cover switched provider last year, down slightly from the previous year.

This comes as health insurance premiums shot up in the last few years.

In a major survey commissioned by the HIA, it emerged that 23pc of consumers ever switched their provider. This is down slightly from the 24pc figure in 2015.

For those who do switch, price is the main reason.

Consumers said the main reasons they take out cover was because of the cost of treatment in this country, and what they see as inadequate public hospital services.

The average cost of a household’s policy decreased by around €50 a year to €1,875 last year when compared with the previous year.

This figure takes in families with children, single people and couples with no children.

Some 43pc of the population now has health insurance cover, up from 41pc in 2016.

This translates into around 2.166 million people. This is still below the peak of 2.3 million people reached in 2008.

Small numbers of those under age of 35 are taking out policies.

The market needs further incentives either through discounts or increased tax reliefs to encourage more younger people to join before the age loading kicks in, experts said.

The research also showed that fewer people are downgrading cover and more are upgrading to higher-level plans.

Most people are satisfied with their health insurance, according to the survey of 1,891 people.

Satisfaction with the level of clarity of information given by insurance companies has increased from 85pc to 89pc, the survey shows.

HIA chief executive Don Gallagher said the figures show the health insurance market was continuing to recover strongly.

“The recession impacted the health insurance industry heavily, and the recovery in numbers with health insurance may be attributed to more buoyant economic circumstances.

“The survey also shows that consumers continue to believe that private health insurance is a highly valued commodity and there is a strong desire to have health insurance cover.”

Health insurance expert Dermot Goode said the market is in recovery but progress is slow and we are still well off the peak number of 2.3 million from 2008.

He said switching levels are higher than those recorded in the survey .

“Thousands are now switching to better value cover within their existing provider instead of switching provider so I believe the switcher market is much more active than the results might indicate,” Mr Goode, of, said.

A negative is the fact that the numbers aged under 35 who are joining is still low, he said.

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