INSURER Irish Life Health is to increase the cost of its plans for those renewing or taking out a new plan from the start of January.
he hikes will see the cost of health cover rise by between €80 a year and €170 for a family of two adults and two children.
It is the first insurer this year to announce a wide-ranging rise in the cost of its policies, with both Vhi and Laya instead giving rebates earlier in the year.
However, Vhi and Laya and now set to follow with price hikes, an expert said.
It comes during a cost-of-living crisis that is expected to cost the average family around €3,000 a year due to inflation in the cost of energy, motor fuel and food.
The Irish Life move will see the popular Benefit plan from Irish Life Health increase in cost by €67 per adult, which will mean an additional cost of €155 for a family of two adults and two children.
The higher prices apply from January 1, but as large numbers renew on December 31 they may escape the higher premium costs.
The Benefit 2 plan will be €141 more expensive for a family of four, with the Benefit Access 300 plan going up by €144 for a family.
Irish Life Health said the changes will result in an average annual gross adult premium increase of 4.5pc for customers.
The announcement comes a day after Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said he has received Government approval to push up the annual levy on what are called advanced health insurance contracts to €438 a year.
It is going up by €32 from April on the majority of plans.
This means the levy will account for around a third of the cost of a typical health insurance policy for an adult.
It is understood the latest price-rise announcement from Irish Life Health does not take account of the higher cost of the Government levy.
Irish Life said it is increasing the cost of its plans due to what it said was “very substantial inflation in hospital procedure prices that has recently emerged”.
The key contributory factors are the very material rise in energy and other supply costs, and the recent public-sector pay deal as it applies to healthcare staff, it said.
The changes vary across plans.
The HealthGuide plans are remaining in line with the introductory price from February this year and First Cover, a recently launched entry-level plan, will have no increase applied. It said it continues to be the best value health insurance plan in the market at €464 per adult per year.
Irish Life Health managing director Ger Davis said: “We recognise that these changes will be difficult for customers who are already experiencing price increases in many areas.
“Like many other parts of the economy, the healthcare sector and particularly hospitals, is now experiencing significant inflationary pressure which will impact health insurance claims costs.”
He said the insurer is passing on the lowest possible increase it can.
The new prices will apply for new customers from January 1 next year and existing customers whose renewals fall due from January 1 next year.
Health insurance broker Dermot Goode of TotalHealthCover.ie said other insurers are now set to follow with price rises.
He said the Irish Life rises will cost a family of two adults and two children between €70 and €170 extra a year, depending on the plan they are renewing on.
“We can expect the others to follow with their own increases now.”
He said this was the first across-the-board rise in the cost of health cover this year, with Vhi and Laya instead paying rebates this year. This was because health insurance claims had been down as people only used private hospitals for essential treatments during Covid.
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