Over-50s finance: Save thousands on your peace of mind
Your health is your wealth as the old saying goes, but while that is certainly true, staying healthy in older years need not cost you a fortune. Charlie Weston explains
WE are now approaching the busiest period for health insurance renewals.
Around half of the market will renew their cover over the next four months, while nearly 400,000 members will renew their cover in January alone.
Despite improving market conditions, all health insurers have increased their rates, with VHI Healthcare and GloHealth the latest to increase their prices.
Switching your cover is relatively straightforward, and with over 400 plans now available and nearly 20 new plans coming on stream from December 1, there has never been as much choice, according to Dermot Goode of TotalHealthCover.ie.
However, making like-for-like comparisons is difficult, as in most cases, no two plans are the same, he says.
"Not surprisingly, older members are slowest to change and are therefore most likely to be insured on dated plans and overpaying for their cover," he said.
Mr Goode said there are many reasons for this, including fear of change, confusion with the multitude of plans, and worries about loss of key benefits. However, older members are the most likely to benefit from a full cover review, which could save them thousands of euro and they would still have excellent cover in place, he maintains.
Many older members still hold top cover such as the VHI Health Plus Platinum, which is the old Plan E (€4,894), or Laya Essential Gold (€5,954), or We Plan Level 5 with Aviva (€5,622).
By foregoing the private room in the likes of Blackrock Clinic and Mater Private, they can maintain all other elements of their cover and save thousands on their premium, he said.
For the GloHealth and Laya alternatives listed below, they can generate massive savings and still keep their private room cover for all private hospitals including Blackrock Clinic and Mater Private.
No two plans are identical, so it's important that you ask the insurer to explain all benefit differentials to your satisfaction,says Mr Goode.
For many members, maintaining top cover for the hi-tech facilities is no longer an option.
They have no choice but to reduce their cover to a more affordable level but are uncertain as to the best plans.
By opting for a Level 3 plan, they can maintain cover for a private room in all public and private hospitals and still be fully covered for certain cardiac and day-case procedures in the likes of Blackrock Clinic and Mater Private.
The good news for most consumers is that the Beacon Hospital in Dublin is now covered as a standard private hospital on most plans, which means a top-level scheme is no longer required for cover in this facility.
See the table on the opposite page to find out the potential savings across the best Level 3 plans in the market.
This will benefit those reducing their cover from the most expensive plans but also those currently insured on a dated Level 3 plan, Mr Goode said.
A key point to note is that these Level 3 plans are really designed for those who want access to a private room in standard private hospitals, which is never guaranteed.
"If this is not a priority, then you should consider the Level 2 plans in the table," he said. (See opposite page).
When considering any of the Level 3 alternatives, make sure that you research the plan fully and ensure it meets your personal requirements, he warned.
For example, not all of the alternatives fully cover major orthopaedic procedures, but all of them have day-to-day cover included at no additional cost.
Also, they all include small excesses per admission to private hospitals, which you need to be happy with. Most health insurance members are insured on Level 2 plans, which cover a private room in public hospitals and a semi-private room in private hospitals.
Many older members are still insured on the likes of the VHI Health Plus Access which is the old Plan B (€1,858), Laya's Essential Plus Excess (€1,928), GloHealth Better Plan (€1,412) and the Aviva Level 2 Hospital (€1,999).
Mr Goode says these are all excellent plans but are dated and therefore expensive.
By taking on a certain level of additional risk in terms of excess and co-payments on certain procedures, it is possible to reduce your costs substantially and still maintain excellent cover.
The next table lists some of the best corporate plans available on the market. These can be accessed by all consumers, regardless of the plan name.
"Be careful, though, as all these plans include excesses per admission to private hospitals and with the exception of the Laya plan, all others include co-payments on certain orthopaedic procedures when carried out in private hospitals."
However, on the positive side, all these corporate alternatives include day-to-day cover which gives you guaranteed refunds on your routine medical costs with no excess to pay first.
In the case of Laya and Glo, no waiting period applies to this benefit, irrespective of your age on joining, he said.