The number of people with health insurance has increased by 80,000 since the start of this year.

The increase comes ahead of the introduction of Lifetime Community Rating.

The Lifetime Community Rating has placed age-related loadings on the premiums of people aged 35 and over who did not have insurance before that point.

Last month alone, 74,000 people took out cover to avoid being penalised.

From this month onwards those over 34 who took out health insurance got a penalty on their premiums. 

Before the deadline all four health insurers reported a surge in interest.

The Minister for Health Leo Vardkar confirmed at the start of the year the number of people with health insurance was up 6,000.

Minister Varadkar says he and his officials are now working on proposals to improve affordability.

He says he believes health insurance needs to be made more affordable before they consider how it could be made universal.