Laya blames hospitals for fourth hike in two years
Health insurer Laya blamed hospital charges as it raised prices for the fourth time in less than two years. From April, the premiums on plans will rise by an average of almost 6pc.
The rises will impact 124 plans, and experts estimate the move will cost an average family an extra €150 a year.
As the second-largest health insurer in Ireland, it has around 500,000 customers.
It is the fourth time the cost of Laya health cover will have risen in 16 months.
The cost of health cover was pushed up by Laya as recently as the start of this year.
The company is blaming the fact that insurers are being charged when people with cover are treated in HSE-run hospitals, even if they do not get a private room or access to a private consultant.
This is now costing insurers €200m a year, despite Government promises when it was introduced it would cost no more than €30m a year.
"This is the fourth increase imposed by Laya in the space of 16 months, and I would say it is not the last," health insurance expert Dermot Goode said.
Insurers are also seeing larger numbers of the people they cover claim for more private hospital procedures, a consequence of long waiting lists in public hospitals.
Laya managing director Dónal Clancy said patients who use a public hospital are being asked to sign a form if they have health cover.
If they sign, their insurer is charged €800 a night, rather than €80 a night, even though they are using public hospital facilities.
"These charges will continue to drive the cost and volume of public hospital claims, with a negative knock-on impact on the cost of health cover," he said.
Mr Clancy added that Laya is reducing prices across the Assure Suite of products by an average of 3.2pc of the gross premium.
Free kids cover for second and subsequent children will be re-introduced across seven schemes, including the popular Flex 175 Explore scheme.
There are growing concerns that 2017 will be a torrid year for families who are struggling with the cost of health insurance.
Health Minister Simon Harris has already approved a 10pc increase in the levy applied to all health policies from April that will also have a knock-on effect on premiums.
The cost of an overnight stay in hospital went up from the start of January, from €75 to €80, with a maximum of €800 per year.
There are fears that the increased cost will be a further disincentive to sick people to go to overcrowded public hospitals.