The French insurer has bought the State’s second-largest health insurer in a major Irish deal.
The second largest health insurer in Ireland, Laya Healthcare, is set to be taken over French insurance giant Axa.
The Parisian insurance conglomerate has closed a deal reportedly worth over €650 million, giving them access to Laya’s 28% market share in the Irish health insurance sector.
But who is Axa, and what could this mean for the nearly 700,000 Laya Healthcare customers in Ireland?
Who is Axa?
Axa is an insurance conglomerate, meaning it owns many independently run insurance outlets. It was founded in Normandy in 1816, and is active in nearly every continent around the globe, although the company is particularly focussed on Western Europe.
The group began trading in Ireland in 1999, and is currently a major player in the car insurance sector, controlling 30% of the market. Axa is also active in the home, business and agricultural insurance sectors, and is the third largest general insurer in the State.
The purchase of Laya represents Axa's first foray into the Irish health insurance market. With well over 1,000 employees in Ireland, the multinational is continuing to consolidate its presence in the Irish market.
What will this mean for Laya Healthcare customers?
The Health Insurance Authority (HIA), the regulator in Ireland, has confirmed that the deal will not impact any policies currently held with Layla, and that there will be no change to the level of customer service.
The HIA welcomed the move, citing the benefits of having more insurers in the Irish market.
Additionally, due to Axa presence in other areas of the Irish insurance market, the insurer may begin to offer bundled deals on car, home and now health insurance to its customers, resulting in lower premiums for Irish consumers in the future.
Ultimately, there appears to be little downsides to the takeover, with no change to existing customers, and the potential for new innovative insurance products to enter the Irish market.
It had been hoped that Axa's takeover would also mean a temporary pause to health insurance price hikes, which have been continuing to take place, with VHI, Irish Life and Laya all increasing their premiums earlier this year.
As Axa will be a new player in the market, the feeling was that it may be reluctant to increase premiums so quickly, and that the entrance of a large new competitor might make other insurers reconsider their price increases.
Unfortunately this isn’t the case as Laya/Axa has announced plans to increase the cost of its policies by an average of 3% from the beginning of October. And VHI is hiking is policies by an average of 7% at the same time.
The price hike will add an average of €42 to the annual cost of policies and was blamed on the soaring number and cost of claims as well as higher energy and staffing costs.
We recently looked into the announcement of the extension of free GP care coming into place this August. To learn more about whether you could qualify and what the consequences of it could be more generally, check out the article.
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