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06 Dec 2021

Private health insurance market continued to rise in 2019 but impact of Covid-19 yet to be quantified

Private health insurance market continued to rise in 2019 but impact of Covid-19 yet to be quantified

The Health Insurance market remained relatively stable over the course of 2019, according to the Health Insurance Authority (HIA) Annual Report 2019 which was published today. 

The private health insurance market increased by 2.5% last year to 2.27m. The number of insured people has increased year on year since 2014, reflecting market stability and Ireland’s growing economy. However, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, the outlook for the health insurance sector in Ireland and for consumers is uncertain.

Key findings from the 2019 HIA Annual Report on the Private Health Insurance Market include:

  • Premiums per person fell by an average of 0.8% in both 2019 and 2018
  • The average amount paid for a health insurance premium for in-patient cover in 2019 was €1,200, compared to €1,210 in 2018
  • Market share did not change in 2019 with Vhi Healthcare’s market share at 50%, Laya Healthcare at 26% market share and Irish Life Health at 20% at end of December 2019

“The Health Insurance market remained relatively stable over the course of 2019. 46% of the population have some form of health insurance cover, making it the largest non-life insurance market in Ireland. Numbers insured in December 2019 were 2.5% higher than 12 months previously, with demand rising against the backdrop of a growing economy,” commented Don Gallagher, HIA CEO, on the publication of the HIA Annual Report.

“According to a survey we commissioned in October 2019, satisfaction with health insurance companies remains relatively high. However, with over 300 health insurance products being marketed at the end of 2019, the complexity for consumers remains high.”

Total claims paid by the three main health insurers (Vhi, Laya, Irish Life Health) were €2.24bn in 2019. Of that amount, approximately 11% was for outpatient claims (including outpatient consultant fees), 19% for consultants in-hospital treatment (including daycase and side-room procedures), 49% for private hospitals and 21% for public hospitals 

Commenting on the impact of Covid-19 on the private Health Insurance Market Mr Gallagher continued:

“As yet, we are uncertain of the impact Covid-19 may have on the market. The combination of the health shock and economic shock as a result of Covid-19 could potentially result in people cancelling their health insurance for a variety of reasons in the short to medium term. 

“A significant increase in cancellations at younger ages could potentially impact the sustainability and stability of a community rated health insurance market. The Authority’s primary objective is to ensure access to private health insurance for all consumers regardless of age, gender or health status. We have established a Board Committee to consider the impacts that the Covid-19 pandemic may have on the health insurance market and on the Risk Equalisation Fund.”

Other key insights from the Annual Report found insurers have remained pro-active in adjusting individual product benefits and prices and adding new services and features so that the complexity of the market for consumers remains high. 

The main reasons cited by consumers for having health insurance were the cost of medical treatment, along with the perceived standard of, and perceived lack of access to, public services. A majority of those surveyed in October 2019 believe that health insurance allows people to skip queues and to receive a better level of service.

To assist consumers to better understand their insurance policies, the Authority expanded its public information campaign during the year. The Authority also continued to assist consumers in determining the most appropriate policy for them through the Authority’s comparison tool, available on its website, and the dedicated consumer helpline through which consumers can seek assistance from Authority staff.

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