Lifetime Community Rating (LCR) was introduced in 2015 as a way to strengthen Ireland’s community rated-health insurance market, where people who are old or sick do not have to pay more than the young and healthy when taking out a health insurance policy. The aim behind LCR was to encourage more young people to take out health insurance - to avoid late entry loadings of 2% per annum which may apply at age 35 and older - in order to ensure sufficient balance in the market overall between younger and older people, and between those who tend to claim more and those who tend to claim less.
Following a comprehensive review of the LCR regime in 2017 by the independent regulator, the Health Insurance Authority, the loadings regime was refined in several ways and credits made available in certain further circumstances. For example, a three-year exemption from 2008 for those made redundant was broadened this year to cover LCR loadings. As of 1 February 2019, persons who have cancelled their insurance for 6 months or more, having previously been insured for at least 3 years, will be credited for any periods of non-cover (the period of 3 years' cover does not need to be consecutive). The credited period is limited to 3 years and is available regardless of why the insured person cancelled their insurance.
More detailed information is available on the website of the HIA at https://www.hia.ie/consumer-information/lifetime-community-rating-explained.
Everyone – with or without insurance - is entitled to access healthcare via the public health system, and the purchase of private health insurance by citizens is optional. The regulatory framework governing health insurance, such as late entry loadings under LCR and the application of waiting periods for new health insurance customers, applies to all persons choosing to purchase health insurance and is not related to a person's eligibility, or previous eligibility, for public health services.