Saturday 21 October 2017

10 ways to save you a packet on family health insurance

VHI has cut its rates, which means savings can be made. Here's how to get the best value as peak renewal time approaches

Stock image
Stock image
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

There was good news this week for the more than half of the population that has health insurance.

VHI, which has more than one million customers, announced a series of price reductions and enhancements of scheme benefits. Its rivals Laya and Irish Life are expected to respond in kind.

With the peak period for renewals just around the corner, we look at what steps consumers should be taking now to maximise their savings, while still maintaining good overall health cover.

Here is a list of the top tips to better value health insurance cover.

1 Shop around well in advance of renewal

Search the market for value and don't let your cover 'auto-renew', is the key advice of health insurance expert Dermot Goode of TotalHealthCover.ie.

Four out of five members may be insured on the wrong plans, he says. Many people are on dated and overly expensive plans, Mr Goode said. This means you could be missing out on savings of between €500 and €1,000 per adult, depending on the plan held.

2 Be careful buying health insurance online

You are responsible if your new plan doesn't meet your cover requirements. Always engage with the insurer by phone and have them explain everything to you. It will save you hours of torture going through complex insurance documents and all calls are recorded and tagged to your policy for your protection. If you are nervous about switching, engage a trusted family member to undertake the task for you or engage a competent adviser who specialises in health insurance.

3 Take on a small excess

This normally only applies to private hospital claims and is per stay, not per night. Excesses are typically €50 to €100 per claim, but could help you reduce your costs by up to €1,000 per adult.

4 Consider splitting your cover

This means putting everyone on a separate plan that matches their needs and budget. You can even split your cover across different insurers if it works to your advantage. For children, this could save you between €150 and €200 per child, depending on the plan, Mr Goode said.

5 Make the insurers do the work for you

Always ask for the nearest equivalent (lower-cost) plan to what you already. Stress that you want them to look across all plans, irrespective of the plan name.

Don't be afraid to take on a small excess for private hospital admissions, Mr Goode said. "Whatever they recommend, ask them to explain exactly what you're losing and gaining to make sure the alternative plan matches your key requirements."

If you have young children, always check if there are any special offers available on different plans, such as a 50pc discount for children under 18.

6 Make sure to get young-adult rates

If you are aged 18 to 20, or 21 to 25, make sure you are receiving discounted young-adult rates. These discounts are available to you irrespective of whether you are a dependant on a policy or insured in your own name, or whether you are working or still a student. Discounts range from 10pc to 60pc, depending on your age.

7 Check out corporate plans

Always check out which corporate plans are available as these are often the best value plans in the market. They are available to all members and normally cover all public and private hospitals, and also include guaranteed refunds on out-patient expenses with no excess to pay first.

However, they might not suit every member, Mr Goode said. It is important that you discuss your requirements with the insurer to make sure they match your needs.

Mr Goode recommends these corporate plans:

VHI PMI 3513 - €1,303 per adult

Laya Simply Connect Plus- €1,295 per adult

Irish Life Health 4D Health 2 - €1,272 per adult

8 Do you really need cover for a private room?

If not, then semi-private room may be adequate cover and could save you €200 to €500 per adult.

Remember about splitting your cover. You could put one adult on private room cover and move the other to semi-private cover to reduce your overall costs.

9 Consider a network plan

These are low-costs schemes that cover selected public and private hospitals only. You can even vary the level of private hospital excess to maximise savings. These plans are available from €695 to €975 per adult.

10 Confused by plans?

A good tactic is to decide on your maximum budget for the year and contact all three insurers to find their best-value plan for that budget. Tell them to consider all their plans, irrespective of the plan name or for whom it was designed.

Think of health insurance as you would car or home cover. Shop around, ask the right questions, and if it matches your requirements and your budget, switch, Mr Goode advised.

Irish Independent

Also in Business