Health insurance to double in the next decade to €2,400 as nation gets older
The average annual cost of private health insurance premiums is set to double to €2,400 in the next decade.
Ireland's older generation is now a nation "ageing on speed", with more than 540,000 people over the age of 65.
It is one of the main factors pushing health insurance costs skywards, warned Jim Dowdall, the chief executive of Irish Life Health.
"The current average premium is €1,200, up from €500 in 2003," he told the annual conference of the Irish Private Hospitals Association.
But the knock-on effect of an older population, with more long-term and other illnesses, will pile another €600 to an average premium in the next decade.
The added financial pressure of medical inflation could also see the average premium spiral even higher to €2,400, he said.
"It is a wake-up call now to take action," he added.
Mr Dowdall's warning about the looming costs of health insurance was echoed by Vhi chief John O'Dwyer, who said insurers are facing having to cope with rising numbers of the population who have long-term chronic diseases. "Some 62pc of people over the age of 65 have a chronic disease," he told the conference in Dublin.
There are 30,000 new cases of cancer annually - and it is the major cause of health insurance claims.
The health insurance chiefs want the Government to stop charging insured patients who end up in a public bed, saying the introduction of this rule in 2014 has seen an additional €200m payout from insurers.
They are also warning private hospitals about the cost burdens of bringing in new technologies, which in several cases could be better shared between services.
In 10 years' time the number of over 65s in the population would need the equivalent of three Beaumont Hospitals to cater for their inpatient needs.
Commenting on the predictions, health insurance expert Dermot Goode said he did not believe the prediction that premiums could double was “scaremongering.”
He pointed out that premiums have been rising at around 10pc a year and the plans facing the biggest hikes in the future are currently the cheaper offers.
A health insurance package that cost €700 in 2007 is now around €2,000, he pointed out.
"Health insurers have no certainty," he said.
They can be given three months' notice that the health insurance levy is going up by 10pc," he said.
Speaking at the conference, Simon Nugent, chief executive of the Irish Private Hospitals Association, accused the Government of failing to utilise the capacity in private hospitals to tackle spiralling public waiting lists.
"Now that we are in high summer, well ahead of the winter, a public-private hospital partnership should be developed to ensure patients do not suffer unnecessarily," he said.
"Ireland's health services are in crisis. The public wants modern, fit-for-purpose healthcare systems. The State hasn't the assets to achieve this on its own."