Monday 17 December 2018

Families forced to pay more but get less health insurance cover

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar TD
Minister for Health Leo Varadkar TD
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

FAMILIES with health insurance have ended up paying more, while accepting lower benefits on their policies.

And they have also noticed that they are getting worse customer service, despite paying higher premiums.

A new survey has found that 99pc of people feel the cost of their health insurance has "sky-rocketed" while the quality of service has deteriorated.

The fact that more than 260,000 people have given up their health insurance has hit everyone who has remained in the market, a survey carried out among 15,000 consumers by One Big Switch has found.

These people have dropped out of the market largely because premiums have shot up by 60pc since the downturn hit in 2008.

The average premium is now €1,150, up from €700 six years ago.

Most of those who have opted out of the market are in their 20s and 30s, with a net increase in the over 50s.

This has meant that the people most likely to make a medical claim have joined the market, while those least likely to use their health cover have left.

Most people surveyed agree with the statement that "health insurance premiums have sky-rocketed", the research found.

However nine out of 10 people consider health insurance to be a necessary spend.

Despite the expense, just under half of those who have health insurance have ever switched provider.

Health insurance experts said there was a strong chance these people were overpaying for their cover.

Of those who have dropped their cover, around a third have delayed or permanently put off having a necessary medical treatment.

Director of campaigns at One Big Switch Sarah Ryan said the survey showed that people felt helplessness. "It is clear from the results that many people are deeply conflicted when it comes to health insurance.

"People are suffering as a result of rising premiums but at the same time value their health insurance as a necessary spend so can't give it up," she said.

She said it was alarming that large numbers of people have delayed treatment or a procedure as a result of giving up their private health insurance.

"The overwhelming reason these people have given up their private health insurance is because they find it too expensive," Ms Ryan said.

After growing for many years, the number of people in the health insurance market stood at 2.3 million at the end of 2008.

This has now fallen to 2.05 million people insured at the end 2013, in a development that is set to be a headache for Health Minister Leo Varadkar.

"Peace of mind" was the main reason given by families for keeping up their health cover. They also feel they will get faster access to treatment.

The One Big Switch campaign aims to encourage consumers to sign up for its campaign and then use that leverage to negotiate cut-price deals with health insurers.

Irish Independent

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