Minister for Health James Reilly has said private health insurers need to do more to keep costs down and contain subscription rises.

Speaking at the National Healthcare Conference in Dublin, he said insurers should have clinical audits to see if procedures are necessary.

The minister said charges should be on the basis of a procedure and not on a daily rate.

Mr Reilly rejected criticism from Laya Healthcare about the new risk -equalisation scheme and the plan to charge all private patients in public hospitals, even if they are accommodated in a public bed.

Laya Healthcare Managing Director Donal Clancy warned that the planned new charges for private patients in public hospitals could potentially result in premium rises of 20-40%.

Meanwhile, the minister confirmed that two major health reports are due to go to Cabinet shortly for consideration.

One will establish hospital groups and will mean that no hospital will operate alone.

The second report on the Framework for Smaller Hospitals will see some small hospitals lose services, but gain other services.