Child's play: reducing private healthcare costs
According to the HIA, families can save up to €400 a year on premiums for healthcare if they compare products on the watchdog's new website, writes Charlie Weston
FANCY saving €400 a year on your family's health insurance premium? The good news at a time when almost all families are looking at cutting their household costs is that that kind of saving is possible for most families. And that's official.
The State's regulator, the Health Insurance Authority (HIA), says that consumers can easily cut 20pc from their annual health insurance premiums -- giving them a €400 saving.
To assist consumers, the HIA has launched a new website, www.hia.ie, which contains a product comparison tool across the range of all products on offer from health insurance providers.
This tool compares products available from all health insurers and will allow consumers to find the best policy to meet their requirements, which will ultimately help people reduce their health insurance premiums.
The HIA's chief executive, Liam Sloyan, says: "Many people don't realise that the health insurance providers have a wide array of products that very often provide broadly similar levels of cover at different prices.
"By simply undertaking a little research by logging on to www.hia.ie, consumers can avail of substantial savings."
Mr Sloyan added that all private health insurers -- VHI, Quinn Healthcare and Hibernian Aviva -- must allow consumers access to any of their plans. For instance, very often plans aimed at companies offer insurance cover at lower prices than to those aimed at individuals or families.
"What consumers don't realise is that the health insurance provider must also offer these group plans to individuals if requested and the price difference cannot exceed 10pc," Mr Sloyan added.
"We estimate that the average family could save up to €400 annually by picking the plan most suitable for their needs," he added.
More than 2.25 million people in Ireland are subscribers to private health insurance, with the market for private healthcare experiencing savage price rises in the past few months.
Quinn Healthcare is to hike its premiums by 15pc this year, while Hibernian Aviva is increasing its premiums by 12pc. The VHI has announced an 8pc price rise from next month.
Despite the price rises, you can still save money by switching provider.
Other ways to save include increasing the excess, ie the amount you will pay before making a claim.
For example, the VHI's Plan B Excess cover is cheaper than its ordinary Plan B cover for adults, but you will have to pay the first €75 of any claim.
Two adults would save €144 in a year by choosing Plan B Excess, but note that this plan charges more than Plan B for children. One way to cut costs is to avoid paying by direct debit. Although it tends to be the cheapest in the market, Quinn Healthcare charges 3pc for those who choose to pay their subscriptions monthly -- 3pc of €2,000 is €60.
Health insurance specialist Dermot Goode, of www.healthinsurancesavings.ie, says: "Many people are really struggling to continue to pay their health insurance premiums given the current pressures on income."
But the good news, he says, is that there are various ways to save on healthcare cover.
- Split up family policies. Don't buy the same expensive plan for adults as for children, as they won't need anywhere near the same amount of cover.
- Avail of student rates. Even if you are a student, these rates won't automatically apply -- you have to claim them.
- Take an excess for a lower premium.
- Match your cover to your life stage.
- Put the whole family on the cheaper company plan.
- Keep receipts for all medical expenses.
- If you need to save money, reduce your cover rather than cancel.
- Be sensible with accommodation cover. Sometimes you don't need a private room.
- Claim all tax relief, both in medical expenses and in insurance premiums.
- Check with insurers that any MRI, CT and PET scans are being done in centres approved by your insurer. If they are not, your insurance may not cover it.
- Negotiate with consultants. For example, if you are doing the exact same treatment a number of times in succession, consultants may be willing after the first consultation to reduce the price of subsequent treatments.
- Don't use a private hospital for maternity, as it can be very expensive and your health insurance will likely not cover everything.