Thursday 8 December 2016

Most health insurance holders have it to get to the top of the queue - survey

Published 08/03/2016 | 16:14

GETTING to the top of the queue to get access to health professionals has emerged as the key benefit of having private health insurance, a survey commissioned by the regulator of the sector has found.

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But just one in four people have ever switched their health insurance cover.

The research, conducted by Millward-Brown for the Health Insurance Authority, found that six in ten people who pay for private health insurance do so to “skip queues”.

Other facts for spending around €2,500 on average for a family’s insurance cover include a belief that people will get a better level of health service.

The survey also shows a strong level of loyalty among those who have health insurance.

The average number of years a policyholder has been with their current provider is 14 years.

Only one in four people said they have switched their provider at some stage in the past. This is low compared with switching levels for motor insurance and energy.

Health insurance expert Dermot Goode said failing to switch meant consumers were losing out. There are over 400 different plans, with many newer ones better value, he said.

VHI tends to be the provider that loses out, with over half of switchers originally with VHI.

One in six switched from Laya and one in five moved from Aviva.

Of those that have never switched, there is strong loyalty evident to their current provider, with just 13pc ever considering switching.

The community-rated private health insurance market allows consumers switch their provider of private health insurance for the same level of cover without penalty.

Chief executive of the Health Insurance Authority Don Gallagher said the survey shows that those with private health insurance feel it gives them fast access to treatment.

"It is clear that those with private health insurance place a lot of value on their cover perceiving that it provides them with better access to healthcare services, and with a majority of 75pc perceiving private health insurance as a necessity and not a luxury.”

The survey also points to a growing acceptance among people that the cost of health insurance will keep rising.

There was a sharp decrease in the proportion who feel that premium increases are inappropriate.

Almost half of the population had health insurance at the end of December last.

Around one in three has cover through a work scheme. But less than half of these get a contribution from their employer to the cost of the cover.

VHI continues to have a large proportion of the oldest health insurance customers, with six out of 10 of those responding to the survey in the over 65 category, compared with just 4pc at newer player GloHealth, and 14pc with Laya.

The main factors that would cause policy holders to discontinue their cover are generally financial.

A third of people said they would drop their cover in the event of losing their job, and 17pc would do so if their salary/wages were reduced.

The survey was based on a nationally representative sample of 1,832 face-to-face interviews conducted in late 2015.

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