THERE has been a sharp drop in the number of claims made on health insurance plans due to the pandemic restrictions.
The Covid-19 outbreak has also seen the number of people with private health cover rise to 2.3 million, which represents 46pc of the population.
An additional 38,000 people took out a health insurance plan in the last year.
Covid restrictions caused a 29pc drop in overall level of claims in the year to March, according to figures released by the Health Insurance Authority (HIA), the regulator for the sector.
Insurance companies last year refunded €415m to customers to compensate for reduction in access to private health facilities.
Most private hospitals and clinics were taken over by the State for three months last year when the State feared it would need extra capacity to cope with a surge in Covid cases.
The HIA said that March saw day-case treatment claims rebound to pre-pandemic levels.
Health insurance broker Dermot Goode said the pandemic has prompted thousands of people to take out private health insurance over fears they will not get treated in public hospitals due to surging waiting lists.
“People have a fear of the public health system. They see the waiting lists and fear that their procedure will be cancelled,” said Mr Goode, of Totalhealthcover.ie.
The rise in people taking out cover was also being driven by people returning from aboard and taking up cover.
He said big corporates in the technology and pharma sectors were recruiting staff and were paying for cover for their employees, driving up the numbers with health insurance.
The HIA said claims for nights spent in hospital declined from 1,134,955 in the year to March last year to 804,067 in the year to March just gone, a decline of 29pc.
The number of claims for day-case treatments also declined from 616,460 last year to 442,659 in the year to this March. This was a decline of 28pc.
Chief executive of the HIA Laura Brien said: “The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic was clearly visible on the market with a steep reduction in claims.
“However, we see some elements beginning to return to normal again as, the number of day-case treatments has almost rebounded to pre-Covid levels in the first quarter of this year.”
She said demand for health insurance remains strong and that there has been an increase in the numbers who have health insurance.
“It is very positive that those with health insurance continue to be able to access services across a range of hospitals,” she added.
Vhi, Laya Healthcare and Aviva all increased their prices in the last few months.
This has led to an increase in premiums as customers renewed policies at the start of 2021.
Laya is increasing its premiums for the second time this year.
The second largest provider of health insurance is to raise its premiums by an average of 2.3pc from June.
The increases will see some plans increasing by up to €150 for a family of two adults and two children.
It comes after both Vhi and Irish Life Health raised their prices.
Laya, which has 600,000 members, said the volume and cost of claims in Ireland’s private and hi-tech hospitals continue to rise with activity levels almost back to pre-pandemic levels.
In January Laya Healthcare premiums went up by an average of 2.9pc. A small number of plans increased by more than 10pc.