Action must be taken on health insurance costs
Upward pressure on health insurance costs continues unabated. The reduction in tax relief announced in the Budget will have an immediate adverse effect on most policy-holders who can now expect to pay between 3pc and 20pc more for their cover, depending on the plan held.
This is before the health insurers announce their pre-Christmas price increases to cover medical inflation and rising claims costs.
Many consumers are now finding the cost prohibitive, with 42,000 exiting the market already in the first half of this year on the back of 64,000 leavers in 2012.
However, there is some good news for hard-pressed consumers, according to Dermot Goode, who is the general manager of Cornmarket's health care division and Healthinsurancesavings.ie.
"Many people have never properly reviewed their cover and could be missing out on significant savings," he says.
With four insurers on the market and nearly 250 options, there is a multitude of choice.
The difficulty for many is sifting through all these options and trying to find like-for-like cover.
Mr Goode has set out below some tips to help you through this minefield.
However, before looking at how to save money, it's important to remove some of the myths associated with health cover.
If you are switching to another provider, they must take you on regardless of your age and medical history and they must give you full credit for the time served with your previous provider.
If a health insurer decided to exit the Irish market at any time, you will be able to transfer your cover to any of the remaining players and they too must give you full credit for time served with the other insurers.
Many people think that if they cancel their cover, they can access treatment in any of the public hospitals free of charge. This is not the case. Unless you hold a medical card, all patients (adults and children) must pay a public hospital charge of €75 per night subject to 10 nights maximum in any 12-month period (€750 maximum).
There are numerous plans on the market with various names including standard plans, corporate plans, credit union plans and teachers'/nurses' plans. Anyone can join any plan on the market, regardless of what it's called or who the target market is.
If you have already fully reviewed your cover in the past three years, then the odds are that you're not over-paying for your cover. However, those who meet the following criteria need to take action before their next renewal date to avoid being locked into high-priced contracts for the next 12 months:
* Those who have never reviewed their cover at all or those that haven't reviewed same in the past three years.
* Those who have all the family, including adult dependents, insured on the same plan.
* Those who have selected higher level accommodation cover, e.g. private room in a private hospital.
* Those who have topped up their cover with the likes of Health Steps (Silver or Gold) from VHI or Day to Day A or Day to Day 50 from Aviva. These plans are expensive and have been overtaken by the new range of corporate plans from the insurers.
Mr Goode said that due to a succession of price increases, which is now compounded by the recent reduction in tax relief, there are many consumers now who must review their cover. These people have to consider either downgrading or transferring to another provider simply because their current plan is no longer affordable.