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First health insurer opts to pass on benefits of new rules

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Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar TD

Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar TD

Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar TD

One of the country's four private health insurers last night became the first to announce it will pass on some of the benefits of new Government measures aimed at making premiums more affordable.

GloHealth, which has around 100,000 members, said it will pass on a reduction of €50 per adult and €20 per child to customers who have its most basic plans from next March.

But basic policies, known as non-advanced plans, are held by a minority of customers across all companies.

A spokeswoman said it will also not impose any government levy-related increase to its customers on more expensive advanced plans from that date.

However, all the insurers responded cautiously to the package announced by Health Minister Leo Varadkar, who said he hoped it would lead to more young people holding on to cover or taking out insurance. He also wants insurers to stick to single-digit increases or freeze prices.

He said: "We want to try to limit the need for increases in premiums and even secure reductions if possible."

The measures allow insurers to offer premium discounts of up to 50pc up to age 25 - this previously stopped at 21. It is also reducing stamp duty levied on companies to fund risk equalisation for basic policies by 20pc and freezing it for more advanced products.

Bed charges for private patients in public hospitals are frozen and legislation, to be published today, will also cut the levy insurers pay for the running of the Health Insurance Authority.

VHI, the biggest insurer, said it welcomed the ability to offer discounts but no decisions on premium increases have been made at this time.

A spokesman for Laya said the measures will have a "positive effect" in controlling cost, adding it needed time to digest them.

It could not say what discount it will offer and would continue to keep premiums under review.

Reforms

Dermot Goode, health insurance expert with totalhealthcover.ie, said while the reforms were positive they fell short in many areas, including failure to restore tax relief slashed in Budget 2013.

The discounts should also extend to the age of 29 to attract people in their first job. "The biggest concern is they will not kick in until March. But 45pc renew in January."

Mr Varadkar acknowledged other variables like medical inflation were putting pressure on premiums.

The biggest exodus from the market has been younger healthier subscribers.

Irish Independent