Switching health insurance can be a costly mistake if you choose the wrong plan. You could lose cover for medical treatment which you need. Should this happen, any savings made by your move could easily be wiped out by the cost of paying for care which your previous insurer or plan had foot the bill for.
It's important to switch to the right plan. Here are eight rules of thumb to bear in mind:
1. Understand exactly what benefits you will lose (if any) when you move to a different plan.
Your new plan for example might not offer the same cover for psychiatric care or orthopaedic procedures as your old one - and such care can be expensive if you're paying for it yourself.
Understand too if you will lose cover for a particular hospital. So be sure to switch to a plan with similar cover and to be aware of any major changes. "There will always be differences between plans," said Dermot Goode of totalhealthcover.ie "Get on to your insurer and ask it to recommend a plan for you as your insurer will know exactly what hospitals you've been in and the treatment you need cover for."
2. Don't overlook corporate plans or mistakenly believe that you don't qualify for one.
Anyone can take out a corporate plan and there are often big savings up for grabs with them.
3. Don't be swayed by the name of a plan - focus instead on the price and benefits.
"People are sometimes influenced by the title when choosing health insurance," said Goode. "Families, for example, might stick with a plan that has the word 'family' in the name. "Forget about the name of the plan." Corporate plans often have some of the least catchy titles - yet they can be some of the best value plans around.
4. Check if you will save by switching if you've been on the same plan for three or more years.
You're likely to be on a dated plan and paying too much if your policy is more than three years old.
5. Don't be afraid to take on a small excess if you'll save money in doing so.
This applies particularly if you're not sick that often and don't need regular hospital treatment.
6. Don't upgrade unless you need to.
Many people consider upgrading their private health insurance to a more expensive plan as they approach their 50s and 60s.
There are five reasons you might want to upgrade your cover, according to Goode. "Firstly, your existing plan may have an excess for private hospital admissions and many members look to reduce or remove these excesses as the risk of regular hospital treatment increases with age," said Goode.
"Secondly, many people become more particular regarding accommodation as they get older. If you'd like a private room in a private hospital (although never guaranteed to be available), this is another reason for upgrading your cover." The third reason you might want to upgrade is if you have orthopaedic and ophthalmic problems. "Many existing plans have co-payments or shortfalls for certain orthopaedic and ophthalmic procedures - and these shortfalls are often up to €2,000 per claim," said Goode.
"As you get older, full cover for these procedures may be a priority and many will pay the higher premium for this extra peace of mind."
The risk of spending more on out-patient expenses [medical care which doesn't require an overnight hospital stay] increases with age - and this is the fourth reason which could justify an upgrade, according to Goode. "Adding guaranteed day-to-day cover - or increasing your existing cover is worth considering," he said.
"Finally, the risk of cardiac-related problems increases as we get older. While full cover for the likes of the Mater Private or Blackrock Clinic in Dublin is very expensive, some members will decide to upgrade their plan to have full cover for these facilities." If any of these five reasons don't apply to you, you may be better served remaining on your existing cover, advised Goode.
7. Be aware of the upgrade rule
Under the upgrade rule, if you change your plan to one with better benefits, you could have to wait up to five years to make a claim for the extra benefits, depending on your age and the date the policy was bought. "People get caught out by the upgrade rule all the time," said Goode.
8. There is no need to have everyone in the family on the same plan.
There are often promotions on children's plans so considerable savings can be made by having children on cheaper or discounted plans - with the adults on a different policy.
Sunday Indo Business