The Department of Health has published proposed legislation to introduce a permanent risk-equalisation scheme for the private health insurance area.

The scheme will help ensure that health insurance cover remains affordable for older and sicker people and that insurers do not "cherry-pick" the best customers.

It is due to come into effect from January next year.

It was announced yesterday that the Health Service Executive is to get an advance payment of €125m from private health insurers.

The once-off payment is for private patients already treated but whose claims have not been submitted to insurers.