Monday 20 November 2017

How shopping around for a health insurance plan can save you €1,000

Older people in general are losing out by sticking to old plans. Stock picture
Older people in general are losing out by sticking to old plans. Stock picture
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

Huge numbers of people with health insurance are over-paying for their cover. This is particularly the case with those over the age of 60.

According to Dermot Goode, of TotalHealthCover, two out of every five policyholders are on overpriced plans.

Just 6pc of members switched provider last year, a survey commissioned last December by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission found.

Anyone on the same plan for more than two years is likely to be overpaying. Overpayments could be as high as €1,000 due to the fact that older people are on the wrong cover, Mr Goode says.

Here is how to avoid overpaying.

Q: Am I entitled to switch?

A: Health insurance policies are 12-month contracts. You are entitled to switch to another provider at the end of the contract. If you are switching from another insurer and have already served any applicable waiting periods, you will be covered straight away.

This is the case as long as you have not upgraded your cover, or had a break in cover for 13 weeks or more.

Q: But I am having treatment. Will that make a difference?

A: The key thing to remember is that all insurers must give you full credit for all the time spent with another company. This means that if you are switching to an equivalent plan, you will be covered immediately. You cannot be penalised when you are switching just because you are undergoing treatment.

Q: How do I go about getting a better deal?

A: If you want a better deal on your health insurance your best bet if you are due to renew is to block off an afternoon.

Get out the details of your current plan, ring your insurer and ask for the nearest equivalent plan to the one you are on, but cheaper. Say you want to be given the best options across all plans offered by the insurer.

Remind the staff member that calls are being recorded.

Ask about corporate plans, and nurses' and teachers' affiliate plans - which everyone is entitled to get if they ask for them.

Get the insurer to explain in detail what is different about the policies being outlined to you compared with your current one.

Stay on the phone until you are sure of the ins and outs of the plans being recommended. Ask and ask again if you do not understand something. Then get the insurer to write to you with the full details of the plans outlined.

Do all of this again by ringing other insurers for quotes and plan details. You will not lose out if you opt for a similar level of cover from another provider.

Q: Is there anything else I should know about getting good value?

A: With so many plans in the market there is bound to be a better-value alternative to your current one. You can reduce the cost of your cover by taking on an excess - an amount you pay when you have to make a claim.

Worth considering is splitting your cover, where you put the children on lower-value plans than the adults. Ask yourself if you really need a private room, which can't always be guaranteed anyway.

Q: Do I have to use my health insurance if I attend a public hospital?

A: No. If you are accessing public hospital services you are under no obligation to sign forms waiving your right to be treated as a public patient.

If you remain in a public ward in a public hospital, you will still be treated just as quickly and the €80 a night charge is fully covered by your health insurance.

Insist on getting a private room or attendance by a private consultant of your choice before signing a waiver form.

Irish Independent

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