Average premiums for Laya health insurance plans are to increase by 4.4% from April 1st.

The company said this would lead to an annual increase in gross premiums of around €55.

It said the increase is the first in two years and follows a sustained period of price stability.

"To ensure we're serving the current and future healthcare needs of our members, our pricing needs to meet the rising cost of healthcare that we’re seeing across the board," said Dónal Clancy, managing director of Laya healthcare.

"Medical inflation remains high - around 8.5% - and this is being compounded by a significant acceleration in the cost of delivering healthcare, notably energy and staffing costs, and pent-up demand for healthcare following Covid-related delays."

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

The company also said it would introduce several benefit updates.

These include access for all schemes to a Digital Health Hub offering unlimited everyday healthcare benefits on all schemes, including digital GP consultations, physio, dieticians, health coaches and pregnancy nutrition advice.

The insurer will also allow its members to claim for fertility benefits on a 'per year’ basis rather than ‘per lifetime’ through its First Steps fertility cover.

"We know from our members that there isn’t a typical ‘linear’ journey or an ‘average couple’ when it comes to fertility, and we want to reframe our benefits to broaden the choice and offer more inclusive support to all those who strive to be parents," Mr Clancy said.

Hearing benefit will also change to allow hearing aids to be claimed and not just restricted to a hearing test.

Assessment of eyebrow tattooing for patients with Alopecia will also be included.

However, it is also retiring the Health Protect scheme from April 1st because of the ending of the public hospital charge of €80 which is the main benefit of the plan.

Last month VHI said it would be increasing its prices by an average of 4.8% from March.