Charlie Weston: Price war means it's even more vital to shop around for better health insurance deal
We are coming into renewal season for health insurance. Most years there is little cheer as multiple price rises in the previous year mean consumers face much higher costs for renewing on the same policies. But this year is different.
Yes, we have had a number of price rises this year, but we have also had something lately we have not been used to - and that is price cuts.
This welcome development makes it all the more important that the 2.16 million people with health cover do not just renew on the same plan again this year.
But be warned, that despite some price cuts, many plans may still be dearer than they were last year.
A new campaign has been launched to encourage health insurance policyholders to review their existing plan before renewal.
The Health Insurance Authority (HIA) has introduced a "review before you renew" campaign. It says switching rates are relatively low. Only 24pc of those with cover have switched policies or insurance providers.
The average premium this year is €1,177 per person. This means health insurance is a significant annual cost, according to HIA chief executive Don Gallagher.
Yet savings of €1,300 can be made by switching to a similar plan with another provider, he said. Remember that there are 355 plans out there.
Mr Gallagher gave an example of the savings an older couple can make. They have a plan that provides public hospital cover and cover for a semi-private room in a private hospital, with full orthopaedic and cardiac cover in private hospitals. They pay around €5,000 per year. But they could reduce their premium to around €2,400 a year by switching insurers, taking a plan with a €100 excess and increasing their accommodation cover to a private room in a private hospital.
This represents savings of a whopping 52pc. What makes looking at switching all the more important is the fact that a price war has broken out among health insurance providers. Laya is cutting the prices on 22 plans, with Irish Life Health reducing the premium rates on 20 plans. This comes just months after the VHI kicked off a new competitive phase with a string of price reductions.
As a first step, consumers should check their cover at renewal time and discuss alternatives with their insurer. Ask about corporate plans, which tend to be cheaper and have better benefits.
Alternatively, contact a good broker like Dermot Goode of TotalHealthCover.ie. The HIA also provides a health insurance comparison tool at www.hia.ie which shows every plan and the prices and benefits.
Sunday Indo Business