Many consumers are now considering buying health insurance in advance of the new age loadings coming into effect from May 1 under lifetime community rating.
With over 375 health insurance plans, it can be a daunting prospect trying to pick the best plan and avoid over-paying for your cover. However, if you follow a few sensible rules and ask the right questions, you can keep the process simple.
The first point to consider is your accommodation preference and what budget you want to allocate to this policy. For example, do you want cover for public hospital only or all public and private hospitals. The former can be purchased from €384 per adult across the market, but really gives you little overall cover and is best described as a means of avoiding the age loadings.
For good quality cover that will really work for you, consider a public/private hospital plan which starts from approximately €804 per adult.
A more comprehensive plan with a small private hospital excess will cost you about €1,200 per adult and if your preference is for full cover for the likes orthopaedics, expect to pay in the region of €1,460 to €1,580.
For anyone joining health insurance for the first time - as well as those already insured - here are nine ways to cut your costs.
1 Split your cover
Adults and children have different requirements and you should select a plan for each person reflecting their needs only. With most insurers, you can have everyone on the one policy but all on different plans.
2 Student rates
Many consumers assume that these are applied automatically once their dependent turns 18 - but this is not the case. Contact your insurer to claim your student rate to avoid unnecessary over-payments.
3 Take on a policy excess
With excesses, you pay the first part of a claim yourself. Savings vary, but reductions of at least between 10pc and 35pc may be possible by accepting a small excess in private hospitals only. Consumers mistakenly believe that these excesses apply per night which is not the case.
4 Watch out for special offers
Many consumers miss out on valuable cost savings by not shopping around. You might be able to insure your youngest child for free for example.
5 Give up the private room
Private accommodation is never guaranteed and for many people represents over-insurance.
6 Check out corporate plans
These tend to be the most competitively priced plans on the market. They normally cover public and private hospitals and usually include cover for your routine medical costs as well.
7 Ask the right questions
When contacting insurers, always get them to confirm that the plan being offered is the best value plan across their entire suite for your requirements regardless of what the plan is called or who it's designed for.
8 Review it every year
Think of health as you would car or home insurance. Shop around at each renewal for the best deal. If you're confused or worried about changing, get advice.
9 Consider a cash plan
If you can't afford health insurance, why not try a medical cash plan. This will cover all your primary costs such as GP, physio, dental and optical expenses.
Dermot Goode is health cover analyst with totalhealthcover.ie.