FAMILIES face paying as much as €400 more a year for health insurance after Laya Healthcare announced a new round of rises. Almost half-a-million of its customers 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 Laya's competitors VHI, Aviva and Glo.
The Laya announcement comes in the same week that VHI Healthcare pushed up its premiums by 3pc. Next month's Budget is expected to add to the cost of private healthcare.
Last month Aviva increased the premiums on its policies by between 4pc and 7pc.
Laya has blamed the fact that increasing numbers of its 450,000 members are making claims. It also cited the spiralling cost of medical treatments for the price increases.
The move will mean a family of two adults, two children and one student will have to pay an additional €380 for the popular Essential Select Plan if they renew any time from the start of the new year. The cost of this policy will jump from €2,020 a year at present to €2,400 from January 1. Price rises of this scale were first predicted in the Irish Independent last month.
Health insurance expert Dermot Goode of www.healthinsurancesavings.ie predicted another batch of rises from Laya's rivals. And Laya is likely to announce more hikes next year, as health insurers have moved from announcing one rise a year to multiple increases.
The cost of health insurance has doubled since 2009. The VHI alone has had five rises since January 2009.
Laya boss Donal Clancy defended the increase, saying: "We have worked very hard to keep these increases to a minimum and it's disappointing that we've had to announce a price increase.
"The unavoidable reality, however, is that more people are claiming more frequently and for significantly more expensive treatments."
Mr Goode of Healthinsurancesavings.ie said that 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.