Around 64,000 people dropped their health insurance last year, according to latest figures from the Health Insurance Authority.

It says that at the end of 2012 there were just under 2.1 million people with inpatient cover.

The average premium paid last year per person (including children) was €1,048 - net of tax - an increase of 12% from 2011.

At the peak of the market in 2008, there were almost 2.3 million people with inpatient private health insurance.

It means that now over 45% of people have cover, compared with nearly 51% at the peak.