Thursday 19 October 2017

How to knock up to €4,000 off your private health cover bill

You could save thousands on your private health insurance by moving off expensive dated plans - without changing insurer

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Louise McBride

Louise McBride

Families could knock as much as €4,000 a year off their private health insurance bill by switching to cheaper - yet similar - cover and insuring their children on less expensive plans to the adults, an analysis by the health insurance experts, Totalhealthcover.ie and the Sunday Independent has found.

So with this month marking the beginning of a peak renewal period for private health insurance - and price hikes of as much as 15pc on the cards for some consumers, it's worth knowing which plan could save you thousands by switching - without sacrificing important cover and benefits.

The Sunday Independent lined up private health insurance expert Dermot Goode of Totalhealthcover.ie to suggest a number of private plans which could be worth moving out of - and to recommend similar, yet cheaper, alternatives.

Here are some switches which could save you thousands - without the need to change insurer.

Save €3,518 on Laya

A family of four (two adults and two young children) would save €3,518 by switching from Laya's Health Smart Family plan to Connect Care 100 - a similar plan offered by the same insurer. "Connect Care 100 is an equivalent plan to Health Smart Family - but it is much cheaper and has a lower excess on private hospital care," said Goode. Health Smart Family costs €2,689.58 per adult and €789.10 per child, while Connect Care 100 costs €1,298.96 per adult and €420.85 per child. So it would cost €6,957 to have the whole family on Health Smart Family - but €3,440 to insure the family under Connect Care 100.

The excess (the first part of a claim you must pay yourself) for a semi-private room in a private hospital is €100 per claim with Connect Care 100 -but €125 per claim with the more expensive Health Smart Family. However, for day-case procedures in the Mater Private and Blackrock Clinic, the excess is €175 per claim with Connect Care 100 - and €125 per claim with Health Smart Family.

Even bigger savings could be made by this family if they split their cover - that is, where adults and children are insured on separate plans but still on the one policy. In this case, Goode recommends Laya's Essential Connect Health as a hospital plan (where the main cover provided is for hospital care) for the children. Essential Connect Health costs €189 per child. (However, the cover for outpatient expenses, such as GP visits, isn't as good under Essential Connect Health as it is under Connect Care 100 or Health Smart Family.)

Having two adults on Connect Care 100 and two children on Essential Connect Health would bring the family's private health insurance bill to €2,976 - almost €4,000 less expensive than insuring the entire family on the Health Smart Family.

Save €1,706 on Irish Life health plans

A family of four could save €1,706 by switching from Irish Life Health's Level 2 Family Health plan to Health Plan 16.1 - a corporate plan offered by the insurer. At €2,204 per adult and €363.60 per child, Level 2 Family Health is more expensive than Health Plan 16.1, which costs €1,381.40 per adult and €333 per child.

"Health Plan 16.1 covers the same hospitals as Level 2 Family Health - with the same €75 excess per claim in private hospitals," said Goode. "There is a higher orthopaedic co-payment on the Health Plan 16.1 but this scheme gives guaranteed refunds on out-patient expenses - which you don't get on the Family Health scheme." (A co-payment is where a patient must foot some of the bill as the insurer won't foot the entire cost of the surgery.)

This family would save €2,052 by splitting their cover so that the two adults switch to Health Plan 16.1 - and the two children to Irish Life Health's Nurture Plan. The Nurture Plan costs €160 per child - about half of what it costs to insure a child under Level 2 Family Health and Health Plan 16.1. (The cover for outpatient expenses is generally better under Health Plan 16.1 than it is under Nurture Plan though). Having two adults on Health Plan 16.1 and two children on the Nurture Plan would cost this family €3,083.

Save €1,152 on VHI

A family of four could save €1,152 by switching from VHI's Family Plan Plus Level 1 to PMI 3613 - a corporate plan from VHI. "PMI 3613 is very similar to the Family Plan Plus Level 1," said Goode. "The main difference is that PMI 3613 has a €75 excess per claim on treatment in private hospitals." (There is no such excess on Family Plan Plus Level 1). At €1,754 per adult and €551 per child, VHI Family Plan Plus Level 1 is more expensive than PMI 3613. It costs €1,349 to insure an adult under PMI 3613 and €379 for a child. So it costs €3,457 to insure the whole family under PMI 3613 - but €4,609 under Family Plan Plus Level 1.

The family would save €1,575 by insuring the adults under PMI 3613 and the children under One Plan Complete, which costs €168 per child. (One Plan Complete's cover for outpatient expenses isn't as good as Family Plan Plus Level 1 or PMI 3613). It costs €3,034 to insure two adults under PMI 3613 and the two children under One Plan Complete - €1,575 less than insuring the whole family under Family Plan Plus Level 1.

Elderly couple

An elderly couple could save almost €2,000 a year by switching to cheaper, yet similar plans.

For example, an elderly couple could save €1,940 by switching from Irish Life Health's Level 2 Hospital plan (which costs €2,627 per adult for existing members) to its Best Ultimate Active plan (€1,657 per adult) instead.

"Best Ultimate Active is an upgrade in cover compared to Level 2 Hospital as it covers a private room in a private hospital and it also includes excellent refunds on outpatient expenses - with no excess to pay first," said Goode. "However, the co-payment on certain orthopaedic procedures is higher on Best Ultimate Active."

VHI's HealthPlus Extra plan (previously called Plan B Options) costs €2,563 per adult - but its Health Access plan costs €1,684. So a couple could save €1,757 by switching from Health Plus Extra to Health Access.

"The Health Access plan covers the same hospitals as HealthPlus Extra," said Goode. "However, Health Access has an excess of €125 per claim in private hospitals, and has less psychiatric cover and reduced cover for high-tech cardiac procedures," said Goode. A longstanding Laya plan, Essential Plus Excess, costs €2,462 per adult - however, Laya's Complete Simplicity plan, which is quite similar, costs €1,564 per adult. So a couple could save €1,796 by switching to Complete Simplicity. "Complete Simplicity covers the same hospitals as Essential Plus Excess and it also gives guaranteed refunds on out-patient expenses," said Goode.

Youngsters

If you're young, free and single, check if you can save money by switching to a newer plan. "Many young people are still insured on dated 'public hospital only' plans which have been overtaken by plans that cover all public and private hospital - but at a lower cost," said Goode. VHI's One Plan Access which costs €962, will only fully cover rooms in public hospitals. For the most part, VHI's One Plan 250, which costs €916, fully covers rooms in both public and private hospitals.

Tips

Don't be afraid to move to another plan if you'll save money by doing so - particularly if you've been insured on the same plan for a number of years. Be sure however that you're not giving up any important benefits when you switch.

"Too many families are on dated plans and are over-paying for their cover," said Goode. "For example, plans such as Laya's Health Smart Family and Irish Life's Level 2 Family Health are all excellent family plans - but as they've been on the market for some time, they have become quite expensive."

Don't be put off by the name of a plan - rather look under the hood and check exactly what cover and benefits are included. "Families often mistakenly believe they need to be insured on plans that appear to be for 'families' only," said Goode. Remember too that corporate plans can offer very good value and you don't have to be an employee to take one out.

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