Pre-tax profits at the country's second largest health insurance provider, Laya Healthcare, fell by 23% last year to €22.17m as revenues increased.

New accounts filed by Laya Healthcare show that the company recorded the decrease in profits as revenues rose by 11%, from €71.9m to €79.99m.

The profits allowed the company to pay a dividend of €20m during the year and this followed a dividend payout of €20m in 2019.

The AIG Europe-owned company increased revenues on the back of a full 12 month impact of two price hikes made in 2019.

Laya members have this year faced two separate premium increases - one that came into force in January at an average of 2.9% and a second hike in June at an average of 2.3%.

The directors state that there were a number of factors contributing to another year of profitable results for the company including Laya’s continued growth within the Irish market which saw the membership base grow to over 616,000 members in 2020, representing a 26% market share.

Commenting on the 2020 performance, Managing Director of laya healthcare, Dónal Clancy said: "We continue to take a cautionary and prudent view on claims.

"While better medical practices and improved treatments are translating into better patient outcomes, they continue to drive medical costs higher, which in turn is having a sustained impact on premiums.

He said: "Private and hi-tech hospitals are the main drivers of claim cost increases, with activity levels bouncing back exceptionally quickly after a brief takeover by the State early in 2020."

He said: "In 2020 when Covid-19 brought unprecedented disruption to Ireland's healthcare system, laya healthcare stepped up to look after its members. As well as putting money back in their pocket, we provided unlimited access to everyday healthcare including digital consultations with GPs, physios and nurses at no additional cost to our members."

The directors state that the primary variance between the profitability across 2020 and 2019 was a once-off curtailment gain of €4.1m concerning the closure of a defined benefit pension scheme in the 2019 results and this did not re-occur for 2020.

On the impact of Covid-19, the directors state that "the health insurance market as a whole has remained resilient so far through the pandemic, with laya increasing membership by twenty-three thousand in 2020 to a total of over 616,000 members, however some uncertainty remains as to the longer-term impacts to the market".

Numbers employed by Laya at Cork and Dublin increased from 560 to 572 in 2020, with wage costs increasing from €26.9m to €28.32m.

Directors’ pay last year totalled €1.54m that includes directors’ salaries of €1.4m, fees of €70,000 and pension contributions of €73,863.

The profit takes account of non-cash depreciation costs of €4.98m.

The company’s accumulated profits totalled €37.5m at the end of December last. The firm’s cash pile increased from €26m to €60.7m.

The company recorded post tax profits of €19.26m after paying out corporation tax of €2.9 million.