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Your Questions: Why are we not being allowed to combine our pension savings plans?



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Question: I have been married for over 20 years and am conscious that, while we generally operate our finances jointly, we cannot combine our pension savings. My partner's savings are far bigger than mine as her employer pays a more generous level of contributions. Should I be worried about this or will each of us always be entitled to half of the other's pension when we retire?

Answer: In theory, every adult should be financially independent, even those in long-term, committed relationships.

However many factors - some within our control, some not - mean that we are financially dependent on others in one way or another, according to Jerry Moriarty, chief executive of the Irish Association of Pension Funds.

The law dictates that all pension savings are made in an individual's name. Even post-retirement, just like a salary, the income is paid out to one person.

However, in the case of pension annuities, the owner of the pension can specifically request that a lower level of benefits continues to be paid to a spouse in the event of the death of the pension-holder.

If your partner's employer is more generous than yours, it makes sense for you both, as a unit, to maximise that pension as a financial priority. The idea is to share the proceeds when you both retire.

In terms of being entitled to half of each other's pension, the law addresses that issue only in the event of a separation or divorce, when a pension adjustment order can be made.

Question: I had a routine MRI scan recently which I assumed would be fully covered by my health insurance. However, I was asked to pay for the scan as I didn't attend an "approved centre". Is this correct?

Answer: All health insurance policies cover MRI scans but you must always contact your health insurer in advance to check two things.

Firstly, make sure that the scan itself is covered as it must be medically necessary.

Secondly, you must check if the condition meets the insurer's "clinical indicators" for coverage, according to Dermot Goode of TotalHealthCover.ie.

You also need to ensure that the MRI centre to which you have been referred is covered by your policy as each insurer has its own approved network.If you don't check this in advance, you may be referred to a centre that is not covered by your policy and therefore you will be asked for payment in full. If you attend an approved MRI scan centre, bring your membership details and the provider will invoice your insurer directly.

Question: Our son is 28 years old. We are going to remove him from our health insurance policy at the next renewal date. He wants to take out a basic plan just to maintain continuity of cover for the moment. Any recommendations?

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Answer: The best plans at this level include the Select Starter from Irish Life Health at €533, the Assure Protect scheme from Laya Health at €511 or the VHI One Plan Starter at €504, according to Dermot Goode of TotalHealthCover.ie.

Your son needs to understand that these are very basic plans with no cover at all in private hospitals such as the Hermitage Clinic, Beacon Hospital and Bon Secours hospitals, Mr Goode says.

If health insurance is not his priority but he is incurring a lot of outpatient expenses, he also could consider a health cash plan such as the HSF One Scheme 3, which will cost him €515 a year.

This is not health insurance but it will give him guaranteed refunds on a range of outpatient expenses that are not covered by these basic health plans.

Question: I am 38 years old and returned to Ireland from Dubai two years ago. I have never held health insurance in Ireland and am thinking of joining now. However, I am told that I must pay an 'age loading' on top of the normal premium for the next 10 years. Is this correct?

Answer: Yes, this is correct, according to Dermot Goode of TotalHealthCover.ie.

In May 2015, new legislation was introduced which meant that anyone over 34 years of age taking out health insurance for the first time in Ireland must pay an age loading fee on top of the gross premium.

This loading is equivalent to an additional 2pc for each year over 34, so this reader will be liable for an additional 8pc on top of the base premium. This loading is fixed at this level and remains in place for the next 10 years.

The law dictates that all pension savings are made in an individual's name. Even post-retirement the income is paid out to one person.

You need to ensure that the MRI centre to which you have been referred is covered by your policy, because each insurer has its own approved network.

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