Press Release

Government regrets BUPA’s decision to leave the Irish market

The Minister for Health & Children, Mary Harney TD, said today “the Government regrets BUPA’s decision to leave the Irish market and the loss of jobs resulting from that decision. Community rating and competition are the twin planks of Government policy on the health insurance market.”

The Government considers that health insurance cover should be available to people of all ages without price discrimination based on risk characteristics – that the market should be community rated. Community rating is designed to ensure that private health insurance is affordable for older people who have paid premiums for many years. Risk Equalisation supports the policy of affordability and competition based on factors other than health status between insurers. The recent High Court judgement upheld the existing regulatory arrangements – including Risk Equalisation.

The Government has endeavoured to achieve a solution that would enable BUPA to stay, but would also protect the fundamental principles of the regulatory framework.

Following the High Court decision, a meeting between the Health Minister and BUPA senior management was arranged. After that meeting, further discussions took place involving senior officials of the Department of Health and Children. Unfortunately, it did not prove possible to arrive at an outcome in which BUPA would decide to stay in the market.

BUPA has advised that its members will be covered for the duration of their existing contracts. The Government acknowledges their commitment to members in this regard and also the concerns BUPA has emphasised for the staff of the Irish operation at this time.

Persons who are unable to renew their cover with BUPA are entitled, under open enrolment regulations, to move to another insurer without penalty for an equivalent level of cover to that held at present. They would not be subject to any additional waiting periods before cover would take effect and would not have to re-serve any waiting periods already served, whether in respect of initial cover or in respect of pre-existing conditions.

The Minister for Health and Children expects to receive the Report of the Competition Authority and the Health Insurance Authority on facilitating competition in the Health Insurance Market in mid-January. The proposals contained in this Report will be given careful consideration by Government with a view to advancing competition in the market and addressing any barriers identified.