The VHI alone has had five hikes since January 2009, putting huge pressure on family budgets.
Some 2.1 million people have private medical insurance, but around 6,000 people a month are being forced to drop their cover. Most of those opting out are young families — the ones least likely to use health cover. This is proving to be a huge problem for insurers. The VHI said it was putting up its premiums now because it needed to price policies “to ensure that we can continue to cover the healthcare needs of our customers”.
It blamed the latest price rise on the fact that people were living longer with long-term illnesses. The cost of claims for private hospitals has gone down but public hospital costs continue to rise, according to the insurer. The increase will take effect from November 22 next. VHI is the largest health insurer and has 1.3 million customers. Last March it increased prices by between 6pc and 12.5pc, on top of a 1.9pc rise last November.