As the pressure continues to grow on family budgets almost 100,000 people in Ireland are expected to be forced to give up their private health insurance policies in the coming year.
New laws due to be introduced this year mean insurers will be billed every time a person visits accident and emergency at a public hospital, which Health Minister James Reilly has confessed will increase the price of premiums.
People are already electing to give up their private cover, and with insurers certain to pass on their increased costs to policy holders the number is expecting to rise rapidly.
Largely as a direct consequence of the price hikes around 50,000 people gave up their policies in the first 9 months of last year. When the final 3 months is calculated they expect around 75,000 for the entire year.
These figures look set to increase next year, with over 100,000 expected to give up their policies by the end of 2012.
The majority of those are thought to be younger, healthier people which means insurers are left to deal with a higher average claim cost. This in turn increases the pressure on premiums, raising the prices and causing a cyclical effect.
There are now thought to be 2.17 million people in the country with private medical insurance, down 123,000 since the beginning of the recession.