The current status of Health Insurance in Ireland Today

Every two years, The Health Insurance Authority (HIA) carry out detailed research of the Health Insurance market in Ireland. This is a valuable piece of work and we want to share the main findings with you.

The research was carried out by face-to-face interviews with 1,832 adults in late 2015 with a broad cross section of the population. This is the 7th round of research completed since it was commenced in 2002.


The Profile of Health Insurance holders

First of all, some good news! The numbers of people with Private Health Insurance (PHI) has risen after falling from 2009 to 2013. 45.8% of the population had PHI in December 2015 as compared to 40% in 2013. This is good news, but still some way off the peak of 52% coverage in 2005.

However the less well-off sections of our population are still poorly represented in terms of PHI coverage, as while 41% of the population are classified in the ABC1 (better-off) socio-demographic category, 62% of PHI holders are in this segment. There is a corresponding deficit of PHI coverage in the less well off categories of our population.

The same applies in relation to younger adults, who are under-represented among PHI holders. 30% of the adult population are under 35, yet just 21% of adults with PHI are.

We can also see higher levels of PHI coverage among married adults. This is probably not surprising as they possibly focus more on their need to protect themselves and their families. While 50% of the adult population are married, 70% of adult PHI holders are. 35% of adult PHI holders have dependant children.

It is also interesting to note that VHI, the original provider of health insurance in Ireland tend to still have older members, whilst those with policies from Aviva and GloHealth tend to be of a younger demographic.

Health insurance providers spend a lot of time, energy and money trying to retain their customers. However unfortunately for them, 10% of the population still report having PHI in the past, but no longer having it. This is probably not surprising, as the economic recovery has certainly still not reached all parts of the country. However amongst those who remain in the market, there is significant loyalty. The average length of time holding a PHI policy remains steady at 19 years, while the average number of years policy holders have been with their current PHI provider is 14 years.


Reasons for having Private Health Insurance

There are numerous reasons given for people having PHI, the key reason given is that the cost of medical treatment and accommodation is high. There is also a strong belief among a substantial minority of PHI holders (27%) that public services are of an inadequate standard, and that there is a lack of access to such services (18%). Another reason that was given by 17% was that they were offered PHI as part of their employment, which made joining the scheme somewhat of a “no-brainer”.

There is broad agreement among PHI holders that one of the key benefits of having a policy is that it enables you to “skip queues” (58% believe this to be the case, albeit down seven points since 2013). Also a majority (56%) agree that “having PHI means always getting a better level of healthcare service”, and that “PHI is a necessity, not a luxury” (56%).

More good news for providers is that policyholders’ overall satisfaction with their current PHI provider has increased, with over half (56%) giving a rating of at least eight out of ten. Satisfaction ratings with all aspects of Health Insurance have risen. There has been a substantial increase in satisfaction with the level of out patient/non hospital cover on plans. There has also been a sharp decrease in the proportion that feel that premium increases are inappropriate, and are not justified by the cost of treatments or services. Is this a sign that providers are now being seen to offer better value for money? We certainly hope so! It’s also heartening to see that satisfaction with the level of understanding of health insurance cover has increased significantly (up nine points to 85%). Maybe this is a sign that the likes of Lyons Financial Services are getting our message across better!

It’s probably not surprising that those aged 55+ are consistently most satisfied – possibly because they are more likely to be claiming from their PHI.


What about those that Switch?

The main reason for switching is cost (65% citing this to be the case) and secondly, improved levels of cover (23%). These reasons (along with the new insurer having a better product/service range) have remained relatively consistent since 2013.

Among those that have never switched, there is a strong loyalty evident to their current provider – just 13% have ever considered switching. This is the highest level of loyalty seen so far in this series of studies.

Looking to the future, and specifically levels of cover, those with PHI are generally quite settled – 80% believe they will continue with their current level of cover over the next twelve months. The main factors that would cause policyholders to discontinue their cover are generally financial – 33% say they would drop their cover in the event of losing their job (similar to 2013), and 17% would do so if their salary/wages were reduced (down from 26% previously).


We hope that this information is useful for you and that if you are a PHI policyholder, it gives you a greater level of confidence in your decision to take out this valuable cover. If you have any questions in relation to your specific cover or want to discover if your policy is still the best one for you, just give us a call on 01 8015808. For those that currently don’t have Private health Insurance, we are just a phone call away!


For access to the full survey results, please visit The HIA website and download the 2016 report.