Business Personal Finance

Monday 9 December 2019

Sick of paying costly health premiums? Time to move

Loyalty to a health insurance company these days is completely meaningless
Loyalty to a health insurance company these days is completely meaningless

Nothing irks people more than their health insurance policy renewal hitting the doormat. With 40pc of policies renewing in January alone, it's a costly addition to the household budget.

The first thing to realise is that loyalty to a company is, these days, completely meaningless. Therefore, the fact you have stayed with one insurer for the last 10 years won't matter one bit if you haven't paid this year's premium. There is no 'no claims bonus' in health cover.

Switching here can save real money, even though there are only four insurance companies in this dysfunctional market largely due to the State's insistence on risk equalisation - irrespective of age or health, everyone is charged the same.

The good news is that anyone can switch anytime. Even if you have an existing condition… indeed, even if you are making the call from your hospital bed, you are entitled to change insurer (although you might feel better if you waited until you get home!).

The entry level or basic plans may be cheap but they're not good. They don't offer anything like the range of benefits that we normally associate with insurance policies.

Designed to get people on the first rung of the insurance ladder since Minister for Health Leo Varadkar imposed a 2pc per annum loading for those over 34 insuring for the first time, these products essentially only get you a public bed in a public hospital.

There are no out-patient benefits, day procedures, no GP cover and absolutely no private rooms. To buy a decent level of cover which gets you elective surgeries, GP benefits and other things most of us see as insured items, you need to spend around €800 per annum per adult. Of this, €399 is the Government levy, so much like you'd spend €10 on a bottle of wine, the value of the actual wine is far less once taxes are deducted.

Therefore, when shopping around, make sure first and foremost that the policy has what you need.

Costs build up quickly for private rooms in private or hi-tech hospitals for example. Sharing a 'multi-bed' room in a public hospital will drastically cut the price.

There's absolutely no guarantee you'll get a private room in any event, despite paying the premium, unless the hospital is private only, and you're up in the 'D' and 'E' plans at that stage.

Having all your consultant and GP costs met will also whack up the premium. Comparing products can be challenging, with over 500 of them on the market. Realise that many are exactly the same, but bundled for marketing purposes to large corporate clients.

You are allowed buy these even if you're not an employee of these companies, but you need to know what to ask for.

Getting a broker to do the legwork is a great way of navigating the mire. Try or Lyons Financial Services ( who are specialists.

If you are really struggling to pay for private cover, consider the HSF Plan.

This is an insurer based in Co Clare which doesn't provide in-patient cover, but a range of cash payments for doctors, dentists, treatments and procedures.

It is significantly cheaper with a whole family covered from around €57 per month.

Sick of paying costly health premiums? Time to move

Irish Independent

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