Private health insurers are to be allowed charge a higher premium for people aged 35 years and older who join the health insurance market.

The move comes under Lifetime Community Rating, which was today signed into law by Minister for Health James Reilly.

From May 2015, a loading of 2% a year will apply to those over the age of 35 taking out cover.

Credit will be provided for previous periods of health insurance and for periods of unemployment since the economic downturn in 2008.

Existing health insurance customers who retain their cover will not be affected.

Under the current system, age at entry for private health insurance could not determine the premium a person would pay.

So called "late-entry loading" was recommended in the 1999 Government White Paper on private health insurance.

Provision has existed in legislation for lifetime community rating to be introduced.