Charlie Weston: Insurance firms guilty of giving older people a raw deal
Older people get a raw deal from insurance companies in this country. This is especially the case with health insurance and with motor cover.
People over the age of 60 are paying more for health insurance than younger people, according to the regulator for the sector, the Health Insurance Authority (HIA).
The average person over the age of 60 is paying a premium that is 31pc more expensive than their younger counterparts.
Health insurers are not allowed to charge older people more than younger people for the same level of cover, under rules known as community rating. However, a review of the market by the HIA found older people tended to have higher-cost plans that give higher levels of cover.
Large numbers of the over-60s are still on the VHI's Health Plus Access, which used to be called Plan B. This costs close to €2,000 a year, according to health insurance broker Dermot Goode. He said many older people were paying €2,384 on Health Plus Extra, which used to be called Plan B Options.
Many of these people have never moved from these plans since they were renamed and went up in price by double-digit amounts.
Mr Goode said older people could opt for cheaper plans without even moving from their existing insurer.
The VHI, which has the lion's share of older health insurance customers, has denied it is ripping them off by not offering them better value.
But more should be done by the HIA and the Central Bank to make it clear to older people that they may be overpaying for health cover.
Motor insurance is another area where it does not pay to be an older person.
Older drivers are being hit by massive premium rises, despite being safer drivers. The surge in the cost of cover risks causing social isolation for older people, Age Action recently told the Oireachtas Finance Committee, which is probing premium rises.
Justin Moran of Age Action said older people were struggling to keep their cars on the road.
His organisation cited examples of older drivers facing increases of up to 68pc in car insurance premiums, despite never having had an accident or making a claim.
Older people who are unable to drive face increased social isolation and must rely on friends or family for transport.
He said figures from the Central Statistics Office indicate that drivers over the age of 60 made up 22pc of licence holders. But they received less than 10pc of the penalty points issued in 2013.
That looks suspiciously like discrimination based on age.
Sunday Indo Business