Sunday 18 March 2018

Have Your Say: 'My policy is expensive and doesn't give great coverage - but I won't be giving health insurance up'

Costs of cover are rising but do Irish people think it is worth it?

Dermot Goode
Dermot Goode

Ellie Donnelly & Louise Kelly

Costly health insurance premiums are showing no signs of reducing with Irish Life Health, VHI and Laya Healthcare all increasing their prices this year.

VHI has pointed to the rising cost of claims caused by Ireland’s ageing population as the main reason behind its price hikes, Bonkers' Mark Whelan told

"Meanwhile, Laya Healthcare blamed new hospital charges on its increases...Sadly, the increasing cost of cover will likely lead to some consumers being priced out of having health insurance.

The single man

The price increases mean that David*, a 41 year old single male living in Dublin, is thinking about whether to stick with his own health insurance policy.

He currently pays €1,970.52 in annual health insurance and the payments are made in monthly instalments of €164.12.

At present I am reviewing the coverage to see if there is a better policy around as it is very expensive and does not give great coverage.

"That said I don’t think I will be giving it up," he said.

The main features of David’s coverage are full cover for day case hospitalisation in private hospitals (including at the Beacon).

Full cover for semi-private hospitals (including the Beacon).

There is a €50 excess on per day-case claims and a €125 excess on overnight claims.

The policy also offers full cover on participating consultants fees - and emergency overseas hospital cover for up to €100,000 per episode.

There is also full coverage for medial treatment in the EU if the treatment is not available in Ireland (subject to prior approval).

GP visits are covered for up to €30 per visit, while consultancy visits are covered for up to €60 per visit.

Hospital casualty charges are covered up to €60 per visit.

"The sheer volume of options available may make the thought of picking a new plan sound overwhelming, but the good news is that switching is easier than many people think.

"Before abandoning their plan altogether, consumers should compare policies and thoroughly shop around for a more affordable plan. The savings can be significant," Mr Whelan said, advising consumers like David to look around at different policies on the market.

Meanwhile, healthcare expert Dermot Goode maintains that the older the person is, the more they need insurance and the more reluctant they are to switch health insurance.

The elderly couple

This could definitely be said of Jenny and Tom*, a retired couple who live in the Midlands.

Read more: Health Insurance Uncovered: Is it really worth having if you’re relatively young, fit and healthy?

They believe that their health insurance costs, while increasing, are reasonable, and they say that they would certainly not consider cancelling it as long as they can afford to keep paying the premium.

The couple, who are in their mid 70s, pay €2,100 per year between them.

This coverage provides them with private healthcare in some private hospitals and private healthcare in public hospitals.

The policy has an excess of €375 for overnight stays in certain private hospitals, and all surgery procedures are covered.

Jenny pays for her doctor visits but Tom has a long-term illness so his doctor visits are free.

In previous years the couple paid an additional €400 in health insurance which meant that they got 50pc back on the cost of private consultations, they have since cut this out of their policy as they felt they were not getting value from it.

"We pay for private consultations now, the consultations tend to cost between €125 - €135 per visit and to-date we have not needed in excess of €800 worth of private consultations a year. Therefore it doesn’t make sense for us to be paying the €400 in additional premium," Jenny says.

While the health insurance policy does not cover the cost of any medication, this does not concern them too much as the majority of the medication which they use is related to the Tom’s long-term illness and is subsequently free.

"It is good to have the coverage, we get good treatment in both the private and public hospitals that we have had to use, we wouldn’t get rid of it because we are well covered," Jenny said.

Married with children

Similarly, Sarah*, a married mum of two children under the age of six, has health insurance through the company that her husband works for, and would not cancel her policy.

She says that health insurance was not something she ever thought about until she got married and decided to start a family, but since taking out her policy she has never looked back.

Sarah and her husband pay €2,817 a year for the coverage, of which the cost of coverage for the two children is approximately €320 per child.

"I wouldn’t be without it, though to be honest.

Paying for coverage for the children annoys me as there is no private care for children in Ireland," Sarah said.

Under the coverage Sarah and her family are entitled to a number of benefits including a private room in public hospitals, a semi-private room in private hospitals, including the Beacon, and day-case cover in hi-tech hospitals.

The coverage in private and hi-tech hospitals is subject to an excess of €125 per claim.

Other day-to-day expenses covered by the policy include consultant visits, acupuncture, clinical psychologist, emergency dental, GP visits, the hospital casualty charge, radiologist fees, and physiotherapy.

Sarah said that the company her husband works for make sure to shop around for the best value coverage that they can get, and that her own work scheme does not offer nearly the same value for money.

"The premium went up 5pc this year...

...but prior to that it had been fixed for two years so we really can’t complain too much about it," she added.

In addition to her immediate family being covered, the corporate health care scheme gives a 20pc discount on all family members who wish to avail of the coverage, as a result of this her husband’s parents are also covered under the scheme.

In total for all six family members (grandparents, parents, and two children) the cost of the coverage on an annual basis is €4,994.

The adventure sports fan

Meanwhile Sean*, (36), has insurance purely because he is a fan of adventure sports and has suffered a number of injuries when participating in sport.

He pays €60.41 per month, or €725.00 on an annual basis.

The policy gives him cover in a select range of public and private hospitals (including the Hermitage, and St Vincent’s private in Dublin), with a semi-private room.

Consultants fees of €60 are covered for up to seven visits annually.

Referrals to consultant pathologists to the value of €60 are covered, while he would receive €60 per procedure should he require a radiologist.

There is a limit to the annual policy benefit of €1,000 with an excess of €250.

Sean says he feels that the cost of the insurance is very expensive, however as he spends his weekends riding horses and/or mountain biking, and he has in the past broken his collarbone, for these reasons he has no plans to get rid of his health insurance.

*The names of contributors have been changed at their request

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