Monday 25 September 2017

Charlie Weston: Relentless health insurance rises mean there's no better time to fight back and switch

'The succession of rises comes against a backdrop of a rise in the number of people with health insurance. New figures show that 2.15 million people now have cover.' Stock photo: Getty
'The succession of rises comes against a backdrop of a rise in the number of people with health insurance. New figures show that 2.15 million people now have cover.' Stock photo: Getty
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

Increases in health insurance costs are coming thick and fast. In the past few days Laya Healthcare, the second largest operator in the market, said it was set to raise its premium rates for the third time this year.

Laya, which has around 500,000 customers, will increase prices by an average of 6pc from July.

It raised rates in January and April this year. Most of the consumer plans are set to be impacted by the latest rise.

A third health rise in seven months is unprecedented.

The cumulative impact of the three rises would mean a family with two adults and two children will face having to pay an extra €450 when they renew their cover. Laya chief executive Dónal Clancy blamed the rises on the move by the Government to allow public hospitals to charge insurers when members use State hospitals, if they sign a waiver form.

And State-owned VHI has just reported bumper profits, weeks after imposing a new price rise on its million members.

The increase in premiums at the start of May was the second in the past six months, but VHI chief executive John O'Dwyer has promised to try and avoid more rises this year.

This month Irish Life Health is to raise its prices by an average of 3.2pc. But some plans will go up by double this amount.

The costs for a family of two adults and two children could increase by between €100 and €250, depending on the Irish Life Health plan held.

The fear now is that there are more rises to come, according to broker Dermot Goode of TotalHealthCover.ie, even if VHI manages to avoid more rises this year.

The succession of rises comes against a backdrop of a rise in the number of people with health insurance. New figures show that 2.15 million people now have cover.

This is up 30,000 from a year ago, according to figures from the Health Insurance Authority, the regulator for the sector. The average premium for an inpatient health policy is now €1,177. Small numbers of people switch insurer every year, and the numbers are actually falling, according to surveys by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.

Many people have been on the same plan for years.

Some four out of five people with cover are overpaying for health cover, according to Goode.

The longer you are on the same plan the more likely you are to be overpaying.

With a spate of rises in place already and more expected, it makes more sense than ever to switch provider, or at least, to switch plan even if you stay with the same insurer.

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