Impact of COVID-19 on private health insurance market 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 in recent times.

The private health insurance market increased by 2.5 percent 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 percent 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 percent, Laya Healthcare at 26 percent market share and Irish Life Health at 20 percent at end of December 2019

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

The HIA received 2,790 queries in 2019. The website received almost 450,000 visits in 2019 with many people visiting to use the plan comparison facility

“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,” Health Insurance Authority CEO, Mr Don Gallagher, remarked.

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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