Almost Half of Ireland is Privately Insured, Despite Free National Health Insurance

Despite the fact that all individuals have access to public health insurance, a near majority of Irish residents also buy private health insurance as well. In June 2012, 2,123 million people — or 46.3 percent of the population — held private health insurance.

Private health insurance, however, is under attack. In June 2012 there were 61,000 less people privately insured than in June 2011.

The reason for this is the rise in cost of private health insurance, due in part to a 40 per cent increase in the Government levy on private health insurance announced at the beginning of the year. In fact, the rise in private healthcare costs has been a leading contributor to the rise in the consumer price index over the last year.

Source: Jason Shafrin.

Comments (12)

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  1. Alex says:

    I’d be interested to know the reasons behind this.

  2. Devon Herrick says:

    Public health wonks in countries with socialized health insurance systems always have an animosity towards private health insurance. I suspect the reasons are many, but likely includes: 1) they don’t want anyone to have better care because of the ability to pay; 2) they don’t want the information to leak out that public health insurance leads to inferior care. 3) they know if public health insurance has to compete with private, the public sector will have to pay providers higher (market) rates or lose participation by doctors, who prefer to be paid what they’re worth.

    Money is always tight in public health insurance systems since the system does not have the ability to exclude those unwilling (or unable) to pay. It’s tempting to levy a tax on private coverage to cover the gap. But, rather than a tax on private health insurance, the public sector should provide a tax credit to those willing to pay their own way.

  3. Roget says:

    Devon: It’s not only tempting, that’s exactly what Ireland was doing. The increases in CPI come from increases in private insurance, which in turn comes from levies from the Irish Gov. Outstanding.

  4. Ender says:

    I would also probably buy private insurance if I was eligible to receive govt healthcare.

  5. Nichole says:

    I can understand why they are buying private healthcare to cover all the “what if’s”, incase public healthcare fails to cover those ifs.

  6. August says:

    Ireland is also in the middle of forced austerity measures. The private insurance tax was part of “an additional 3.8 billion euros in tax increases and spending cuts for 2012 that will affect health care, social protections and child benefits.”

  7. Robert says:

    I’d really like to know more of the factors behind the rise in the CPI. I find it slightly odd that, while the article is almost 2 weeks old, nobody has commented on it. I would like to know the opinion of someone in-country.

  8. Amanda L. says:

    I wonder what’s the reason behind Irish people buying private health insurance when they already have access to public care. I wonder if it’s a matter of better quality of care offered by private providers? or if it’s simply a “social status” thing? Living in Ireland for a few months I came to the realization that health insurance is a luxury, which raises my question (especially when we are talking about the majority of the population.)

  9. Delaila says:

    Sounds familiar!

  10. Anderson Jr. says:

    It seems they have a very “open” public health system in Ireland, not just for the Irish, but also for those coming to Ireland from other countries. As I understand, if you are part of the European Union and/or reside in Ireland, you qualify to receive the same health care benefits as every other Irish citizen. You may even qualify for a broader list of medical benefits at no cost if your income is low enough.
    That said, I wonder how necessary it is for these people receiving government benefits to also acquire private health insurance and take on that increased cost. It seems the public health system as is is willing to offer a broad number of services…is it that bad that people are still willing to switch to private care?

  11. Thomas Boyle says:

    Everyone in Ireland has access to the public health system, but only about 30% of the population gets it free of charge. Most people have to make co-payments, whose size depends on income. Most people who do not qualify for free healthcare, carry private insurance.
    “Free of charge” does not mean “quickly”, and it also does not provide access to, for example, private hospital rooms (and there have been periods when public patients got gurneys in the hallways of hospitals). Doctors maintain separate waiting lists, one for “free” (government-paid) patients and one for private patients. Waiting time on the private list tends to be shorter, because the list itself is shorter. While this may appear unfair, it’s generally recognized that the private patients are also subsidizing the “free” patients.
    Access to certain “high tech” facilities, like MRIs, is also sharply constrained in the “free” system.
    Note that one of the private health insurers is government-owned.

  12. Rick Starr says:

    The first sentence is extremely misleading. While all citizens have access to public health insurance? “access” is not the same as actually having it “provided”. Only 30% of the population is afforded “free” healthcare (determined by income), the rest rely on “subsidized” access, hence their purchase of “insurance.”

    Ireland, like many countries, has a mix of public and private healthcare, and while all citizens have some sort of access, it is not “universal health care” in the sense that we think of in many other countries.