Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Questions (654)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

654. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Health if there are any regulations in place regarding the pricing of private health insurance (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13016/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

The main legislative provisions for the regulation of the Irish private health insurance market are included in the Health Insurance Acts 1994 to 2012 and Regulations made under those Acts. The aim of this legislation is to ensure that the market is regulated appropriately.

The regulatory system is based on the key principles of community rating, open enrolment, lifetime cover and minimum benefit and aims to ensure that private health insurance does not cost more for those who need it most. Under community rating, everybody is charged the same premium for a particular health insurance plan, irrespective of age, gender and the current or likely future state of their health.

As Minister, I have no legal power to intervene in relation to health insurance prices set by the health insurance providers. The insurance companies, operating as commercial providers with a view towards profit generation, make commercial decisions about their prices. I am not aware of any product which has increased in net premium terms by the magnitude referred to by the Deputy, but it is clear that any significant price increases will make it more difficult for customers to renew their policies. I have consistently raised the issue of costs with health insurers and am determined to address costs in the sector in the interests of consumers. I will continue to focus strongly on this issue, as part of measures to ensure the sustainability of the private health insurance market in the transition to a Universal Health Insurance system.

In the meantime, many consumers can make large savings on their health insurance premiums by shopping around for the health insurance plan that best suits their needs. For those who have been insured on the same plan for a number of years, it is important to review the level of cover to ensure that their needs are being met, without being over-insured. Consumers have a legal right to switch between or within insurers to get better value and to reduce their premium costs. The Health Insurance Authority (HIA) provides information to consumers regarding their rights and also on health insurance plans and benefits. The HIA's website www.hia.ie has a useful plan comparison tool which assists in finding suitable and competitive health insurance plans.