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Health Insurance Authority establishes Covid-19 committee amid potential cancellations

The board of the Health Insurance Authority (HIA) has established a new Covid-19 subcommittee after it noted the possible impact of the current pandemic on the private health insurance market, this newspaper has learned.

The impact of Covid-19 was discussed at the HIA board meeting in March, minutes of which have been seen by the Medical Independent (MI).

A HIA spokesperson told MI the subcommittee’s role was “to consider the impacts that the Covid-19 pandemic may have on the private health insurance market in Ireland and on the risk equalisation scheme and to provide guidance to the Authority to assist it in the performance of its functions as outlined in the Health Insurance Acts.”

The spokesperson said “the HIA’s primary objective is to ensure access to private health insurance for all consumers, regardless of age, gender, health status. Any event which may impact the primary objective is of concern to the HIA. The combination of the health shock and economic shock, as a result of Covid-19, could potentially result in many people cancelling their health insurance for a variety of reasons in the short-to-medium term.

“A significant increase in cancellations at younger ages could potentially impact the sustainability and stability of a community-rated health insurance market.” According to data published by the HIA in March, there were 2,290,000 people insured with inpatient health insurance plans. This represented an increase of 55,000 in the number of insured people over the past 12 months. The market peaked at almost 2.3 million at the end of 2008.

Due to fears that a Covid-19 surge would overwhelm the public system, the State entered into a controversial arrangement with private hospitals to take over their facilities. The contract has not been extended but discussions are ongoing between the State and private healthcare about use of its capacity in the coming months.

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