Despite an increase in the number of people taking up health insurance in the past year, the total number of consumers with health cover is still lower than the peak reached in 2008.

New figures from the Health Insurance Authority show that a total of 2,156,000 people had health insurance at the end of March 2017.

This is up over 30,000 on the same time last year.

The health insurance market had peaked at almost 2.3 million at the end of 2008 and was at its lowest at the end of 2014.  

The HIA said the percentage of the population with impatient health insurance cover stood at 45.8% in December 2016, compared to a peak of 50.9% at the end of 2008. 

Today's figures from the HIA show that the average premium paid per insured person last year was €1,177, up from €1,173 in 2015.

The total health insurance premiums paid last year - gross of tax relief - came to €2.528 billion, up 2.7% on the previous year.

Meanwhile, Laya Healthcare is to introduce an average increase of 6% across a number of schemes from July.

The increase is being blamed on a sustained increase in the cost and volume of claims.