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Friday 22 August 2014

How to save thousands without cutting back on health cover

It's all about the plan you pick, especially if you're in the over-50s age group, says Personal Finance Editor Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

Published 15/07/2014 | 02:30

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Nora Grant with her dog Sassie. Picture: Patrick Browne
Nora Grant with her dog Sassie. Picture: Patrick Browne

THOUSANDS of people over the age of 50 are over-paying for their health insurance. But huge savings are possible by changing plans and staying with the same insurer.

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Spiralling premium costs and changes in the benefits offered on plans that were traditionally popular with those who have been insured for a long time mean they often have costly cover.

If you have not reviewed your cover for two years, or if all of the family is on the same level of cover, then the chances are that you are paying too much, expert Dermot Goode of Healthinsurancesavings.ie says.

Some people are paying for a private room when they may be able to dramatically reduce the cost of their health insurance by opting for a semi-private room, he said.

"To be fair to the health insurers, they are responding to the affordability issue in the market by launching new lower-cost plans. In some cases, they will 'clone' existing plans and launch them under a new name but at a lower cost."

The health insurance expert said that if consumers do their homework properly in advance of their renewal date, they may be able to source equivalent cover at a much lower cost.

"While switching is always recommended for better value cover, you may actually be able to achieve these cost savings from your current insurer, but on a different plan," Mr Goode explained.

VHI

THE table labelled VHI shows some alternative plans from VHI Healthcare.

The first column shows a list of good plans that have become hugely expensive over the past few years due to price rises of up to 45pc on one occasion.

Alternative, but cheaper, plans are suggested in the table, that was compiled by Mr Goode.

"While not identical, each alternative offers the consumer quality cover at a lower cost," he added. For example, PMI 36 13 is similar to the Family Plan Plus Level 1 cover except that it includes a €75 excess per admission to private hospitals. An excess is an amount you have to pay.

Mr Goode said both plans include day-to-day cover, but the PMI 36 13 will save two adults €610 a year.

Compared with Health Plus Extra, the Health Plus Excess scheme includes a €75 excess per private hospital admission and some other differentials, but will save two adults €1,270 a year, Mr Goode said.

LAYA

Similar savings are available with Laya Healthcare.

"The Essential Plus No Excess is an excellent plan, but the Health Wise Plus No Excess scheme offers equivalent cover at a significantly lower cost.

"Two adults renewing on Essential Plus can save €1,390 for equivalent cover."

Mr Goode said the Simply Health Excess scheme is a quality corporate plan that offers equivalent cover to the likes of Family Care or Personal Care but at a significantly lower cost.

Two adults switching from Family Care to Simply Health Excess would save €2,228 a year, he said.

AVIVA

Aviva Health has a range of offers. Two adults on Level 2 Complete Health will save over €1,300 by switching to the Level 2 Hospital plan.

"Apart from co-payments on certain orthopaedic procedures and cover for the Beacon Hospital, this lower cost option offers equivalent hospital cover at a much lower premium," Mr Goode said.

For anyone insured on the Level 2 Hospital scheme with day-to-day cover, they can retain their cover for the routine medical expenses by switching to the lower cost Health Plan 16.

Apart from a €75 excess in private hospitals, the latter plan will save a couple over €1,880 per annum.

GLOHEALTH

Many consumers don't shop around fully when it comes to renewal time.

GloHealth has been in the Irish market for two years now and, like the other insurers, it has some attractive options.

If a private room is not important to you, and you are open to paying a co-payment for certain orthopaedic procedures, then you should consider dropping from Ultra to the Best plan with GloHealth and you'll save just under €2,000 for two adults. If you don't mind taking on a small excess in private hospitals, then you may be interested in the Better Plan at €1,039 per adult instead of the Best Plan, Mr Goode said.

In tomorrow's Irish Independent: How to save on family health cover

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