Health insurance premiums are expected to increase further towards the end of the year as Covid-19 impacts on the private health system and some consumers may opt to terminate cover.

Dermot Goode, of totalhealthcover.ie, said there was likely to be upward pressure on claims as the private hospital network gets back up and running having been in effective state control for the last few months.

He said there would be increased costs for items including personal protective equipment (PPE) which would presumably be passed on to the insurers.

"It's only a matter of time before we see which insurer moves first. We're expecting price increases to come through later in the year. Now is the quiet time," he said.

"The peak renewal time starts in October and November and we're really waiting to see exactly what the insurance companies will do, but we expect rates will rise," he added. 

Dermot Goode said consumers should be on the alert for any changes in cover on their plans. He said some plans on the market had been replaced by slightly more expensive plans and cover for certain surgeries, like joint replacement, had been reduced on other plans.

The other factor that could dictate price movements is the extent to which economic hardship forces consumers to drop their private health cover.

Mr Goode said there hadn't been much evidence of it yet as insurers had opted for partial rebates on premiums and the government wage support schemes were supporting household earnings.

"It will be the third or fourth quarter before we see the full impact. We'd be expecting some contraction in the market and that will dictate what the insurers will do."

Dermot Goode said insurers had started to refund consumers the money they were promised as part of a partial premium rebate for the period during which the private hospitals were in state hands.

He said consumers didn't have to do anything - the money would be refunded automatically.

However, he recommended that anyone who hadn't received it should check with their insurer the status of the refund, how much they would be getting and how it would be paid.

"Members don't have to apply. All companies are making arrangements to make refunds directly. Laya members should have received all of their refunds at the end June. VHI refunds are being processed up to August and Irish Life, likewise," he said.