Health insurance customers warned 'act now to avoid huge increases'
Thousands of people who are due to renew their health insurance in the next few weeks have been warned to act now to avoid huge increases in the cost of cover.
Up to 400,000 people are due to renew by the end of January.
Most insurers have imposed double-digit rises in the cost of premiums since these people renewed their cover a year ago.
Health insurance expert Dermot Goode warned consumers to act now, or face rises in the cost of the plans they are on of up to €500 for a family.
Mr Goode, of TotalHealthCover.ie, said: “Approximately 400,000 policies are due for renewal in January alone, and so we are issuing this warning to consumers to get organised and start reviewing policies now.”
He said that if policyholders take steps now to review their cover, “they could save themselves hundreds and even thousands on their cover for next year depending on the plan held”.
This was particularly the case with older members. If these people switch from dated plans they stand to make the biggest savings, Mr Goode said.
There are been a succession of rises in the cost of cover this year, despite the takeover by Irish Life of Aviva Health and GloHealth earlier this year. That had been expected to have had put downward pressure on premium costs.
Both Vhi and Laya announced two smaller rises earlier this year, but the cumulative impact is that people renewing will be faced with overall rises of 10pc in the cost of cover.
GloHealth will raise the cost of cover by an average of 6pc this month.
Some 56 of Laya’s plans are going up by 7pc next month, with another 49 going up by 5pc in January.
Aviva plans are also going up by similar amounts in January.
Insurers have blamed the rising costs being imposed on them by public hospitals whenever a member uses a public hospital. The charges are being imposed whether the insured person gets a private or a public bed, or even if they are left on a trolley.
Mr Goode said: “As a result, we are now feeling, and will continue to feel, the real impact of these practices on health insurance premiums.”
The health insurance expert advised people renewing their cover to phone their health insurer and other competing insurers to find the best plan.
“Always ask for the closest equivalent plan to what you have instead of asking for their recommendation,” he said.
And he cautioned people who have been on the same plan for two years or more, to try not to let it just roll over - it could cost you if you do.
A recent survey by the Health Insurance Authority found that a family of two adults and two children, with a plan that costs € 4,500 a year and provides public hospital cover, a semi-private room in a private hospital and day-to-day benefits, could cut their premium to €3,000 if it moves to a plan with a € 150 hospital excess.
Mr Goode said families could save between €780 to € 2,995, depending on the plan held and their renewal date.