Holders of new health insurance policies warned to review cover
People who took out health cover for the first time last year to avoid penalties are warned to review their cover before renewing in the coming weeks.
An extra 100,000 people took out health insurance for the first time last year, with most of them doing so in order to avoid loadings.
Half of them took out basic cover, but will still have to queue for medical treatment, according to independent broker Dermot Goode.
Health insurers introduced low-cost plans to attract those taking out cover for the first time, with many of these policies priced between €400 and €500.
Mr Goode, of TotalHealthCover.ie, said large numbers of new entrants who bought these low-priced plans would find that they have access to public hospitals only.
He said it was becoming increasingly difficult for consumers to access private treatment in public hospitals, due to long waiting lists that are forcing hospitals to cancel elective surgeries.
"The value of health insurance plans that only give access to public hospitals must be questioned," Mr Goode said.
The introduction of lifetime community rating last May meant that anyone aged 34 or over who took out health insurance for the first time had to pay a permanent age loading - so the older you are the more you pay.
Mr Goode said that many of these people took out plans in haste.