independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

How it pays to shop around for health insurance

THE cost of health insurance has been spiralling over the past few months, with expectations that the seemingly relentless rises will continue this year.

Yet despite a series of rises that have seen the cost of health cover double since 2009, many families remain determined to retain their cover.

The good news is that there are ways to keep your medical insurance while at the same time cutting the cost of the premiums.

Here are some top tips on cutting the cost of health insurance from expert Dermot Goode of www.health insurancesavings.ie, which is part of Cornmarket Group Financial Services Ltd.

1

Review your cover

For those who have been insured on the same plan for three years or more, it may be well worth their while reviewing their cover. For the older plans that have been on the market for some time, it means that they have been hit by all the price increases since launch.

2

Take an excess to save money

An excess is the amount of money you will have to pay out before you can make a claim.

By taking on a small excess – for example €75 to €125 – you may be able to reduce your costs considerably, says Mr Goode.

It's important to note that these excesses only apply to private hospitals and are normally "per admission". For example, VHI Health Plus Access (Plan B) is €1,405 per adult, compared with €1,273 on Health Plus Excess (Plan B Excess).

Essential Plus with Laya Healthcare costs €1,678, compared with €1,406 with Essential Plus Excess.

The Aviva Level 2 Hospital plan will cost an existing member €1,268, compared with €936 on their Level 2 Health Excess (reduced to €899 for January only). All the above rates are per adult.

3

Be sensible with your accommodation preference

Unless you insist on a private room in a private hospital, then you don't need to hold this level of hospital cover, says Mr Goode.

If you are happy with a semi-private room (no more than five beds), then you don't need to be insured on the following (figures are per adult):

• VHI Health Plus Choice (Plan C) €2,118

• Laya Health Manager €2,354

• Aviva 'I' or 'We' Level 3 €1,877

• Glo Ultra €1,665

Savings of up to €675 per adult are possible (depending on provider) by reducing your cover slightly and foregoing the private room in a private hospital.

4

Consider one of the new,

mid-range, affordable options from all insurers

These including the following:

• VHI One Plus Plan €916 per adult

€2,306 for a family of two adults and two children

• Laya Essential Connect €887 per adult

€2,212 for a family of two and two

• Aviva Family Value €834 per adult

€2,058 for a family of two and two

• Glo Better Plan €795 per adult

€1,980 for a family of two and two

5

Split cover is a great way of reducing your costs

For example, you could leave the adults on a mid-range plan and put the younger children on a lower-level plan. Depending on your provider and the plan held, this could save you up to €212 per child.

6

Don't buy cover for day-to-day expenses without doing the sums

Many people are throwing money away on additional cover that they don't really need, according to Mr Goode.

For example, why pay an additional €302 for day-to-day cover for each adult if your annual expenses each year average €200 to €300?

Given that you only receive on average a 50pc refund, you would need to be incurring expenses in the region of €650 to €700 per adult per annum in order for this to be cost-effective.

7

Pay the full amount

for the year

Avoid surcharges by paying in full in advance.

Laya is the only insurer that charges an additional 3pc for instalment payments.

On the Essential Plus scheme, you could save up to €126 per annum for an average family policy by paying your full premium up front.

8

Avail of student rates

Each insurer offers different rates for students. This could reduce your costs by about 50pc, depending on the provider or plan held.

Remember, you don't get this automatically, you must request it from the insurer.

9

Check out the new provider

GloHealth is the new player and like any new entrant, its plans are very keenly priced as it tries to build up its membership.An attractive feature of its plans is that it allows you to customise your cover in order to suit your own requirements (personalised packages).

Remember, you get full credit for your previous membership if you are switching from one provider to another, Mr Goode says.

10

Check out the

corporate plan options

Corporate plans are typically designed for large corporate clients who fund the cost of health insurance for their employees.

While they normally include an excess in private hospitals, many of them include day-to-day cover as standard, which provides refunds for many routine medical expenses, such as visits to the GP, dental, physio etc.

Always enquire from your insurer regarding what corporate plans they have that are equivalent to your current level of cover.

If you find one that suits your particular requirements, make sure they explain to you exactly how it compares to your current level of cover.

Remember, these plans are always priced very competitively and anyone can avail of them, regardless of what they're called.

There are good corporate plans on the market, ranging in price from €874 to €970 per adult.

If they are too costly for children, you can split your cover and put the children on a different plan at a lower cost.

Dermot Goode – www.healthinsurance savings.ie part of Cornmarket Group Financial Services Ltd.

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