Friday 23 March 2018

Charlie Weston: State is reason for the latest rise in health cover costs

Insurers cite the public hospital charges for the rising cost of cover this year
Insurers cite the public hospital charges for the rising cost of cover this year
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

Families renewing their health insurance in the coming months need to watch out that their plan has not hugely increased in price since they signed up for it a year ago.

It is highly likely your plan is now up to 13pc more expensive, despite indications coming from health insurers that they have only imposed small, single-digit increases this year.

And the blame for this situation does not lie with the insurers, for once. The Government is the culprit.

Changes put in place by former health minister James Reilly mean that fees imposed on insurers by public hospitals are driving up premiums for individuals and families by between €150 and €250 a year.

In 2014 legislation was introduced allowing public hospitals charge patients with private health cover.

Those with health insurance who consent to be treated as a private patient when admitted to a public hospital can be charged between €813 and €1,000 a night.

The fees are imposed whether these people get private treatment or not. Even if you end up on a trolley your insurer can be charged.

This is compared with the statutory charge for overnight and in-patient services of €75 a day, up to a maximum of €750 in any 12 consecutive months. The €75 fee does not apply to medical card holders. The Government had predicted that about €30m would be collected from public hospital costs, but the charges are actually raising close to €150m a year, according to independent broker Dermot Goode of

Insurers cite the public hospital charges for the rising cost of cover this year.

Mr Goode did an analysis of increases announced by the two largest players, VHI and Laya. He found the cumulative rises are 10pc, three times more than the 3pc increases consumers have been expecting.

The rises will mean families of two adults and two children being asked to pay up to €480 more on some plans. The hikes mean the VHI's The One Plan Family will be €250 more expensive for a family, with the Family Plan Plus Level 1 set to be €482 dearer. The VHI's Health Plus Premium plan will go up by €656 for a family.

Laya's Health Smart plan will be €466 more expensive at the end of this year for a family, with the Flex 250 Explore set to be €228 dearer. And the Essential Plus Excess plan will go up by €344 for a family.

You do not have to accept the rises. It is possible to avoid them by shopping around and getting advice.

An option is to ask for a corporate plan which is usually better value. One such is the VHI's PMI 3613, which is not going up.

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