Health insurer NIB has posted a 23 per cent fall in first-half profit, blaming higher claims for the softer result.

The company will maintain its fully franked interim dividend of 10 cents per share even after profit slipped to $57.3 million for the six months to December 31.

Group revenue was higher by 6.4 per cent to $1.3 billion, as members continued using services at a rate in line with the insurer’s expectations.

However NIB said the industry was experiencing an increase in claims following a relatively soft period.

The poor result comes as more Australians abandon health insurance due to cost.

Only 44.1 per cent of Australians have hospital cover, the lowest level since 2007.

Australian Prudential Regulation Authority executive board member Geoff Summerhayes early this month said smaller insurers were only a few years from being forced to merge or fold due to the downturn.