Thursday 14 December 2017

How over-60s are paying up to €1,000 more for health cover

The SwiftCare package will be available on all of its hospital plans in variously priced bundles. Currently it costs €150 for a consultation with extra costs for treatment thereafter. Stock picture
The SwiftCare package will be available on all of its hospital plans in variously priced bundles. Currently it costs €150 for a consultation with extra costs for treatment thereafter. Stock picture
Gareth Morgan

Gareth Morgan

Older people are consistently overpaying for health cover by as much as €1,000, a new report warns.

There are 2.1 million people with private insurance in Ireland, and according to the analysis by, at least two out of every five of these policyholders are on dated and hugely overpriced plans.

The vast majority of "over-payers" are over 60 years of age, with fear of change and misguided loyalty to one insurer costing them.

Last year saw health insurance premiums rise by 10-20pc depending on the plan held, and this year has already seen people bear the brunt of a further raft of levy increases and price hikes, again across all insurers.

For example, Laya - which has around 500,000 customers - will increase prices by an average of 6pc from July.

It already raised rates in January and April this year.

And State-owned VHI has just reported bumper profits, weeks after imposing a price rise on its million members.

Now a analysis of the health insurance market reveals:

Older people invariably pay more than any other age group - often 30pc-50pc more;

Older people are more likely to be unaware of the availability of better-value corporate plans;

Older members are still more likely to be insured on plans that have been on the market for 10-25 years;

In Ireland, there is still huge loyalty to health insurers, particularly among the older generation;

The younger-to-middle age cohort of health insurance policyholders is more savvy when it comes to shopping around;

This group tends to be paying between €900-€1,500;

Many younger people are still opting for the entry-level plans simply to beat the age loadings, but they understand that these are not quality health insurance plans at all.

When asked about switching their plan, the majority of older members are unaware that the legislation protects them fully in terms of not having to re-serve waiting periods when switching to a new insurer and continuity of cover for equivalent benefits. Many also mistakenly believe that age loadings may apply if they switch.

"It's a real issue now that so many older members, particularly long-term loyal policyholders, continue to pay more than they should for health insurance," said health insurance expert Dermot Goode.

The issue here is that, for one reason or another, people are staying on the same plan for too long.

"When it comes to health insurance, people should review their plan every year just as they would home or car insurance. But they don't. And this can be a costly mistake.

"But nobody feels the impact of this mistake harder on their pocket than Ireland's older generation.

"Many are on dated plans that have been on the market 10 to 25 years, which means they are very expensive.

"And to compound the negative financial impact, most of these older members are on fixed incomes and simply don't have the financial capacity to absorb these huge costs.

"Older people typically pay €2,000 to €2,500 each, or double what their younger counterparts pay, simply because they don't review their cover properly."

Older members are often afraid to switch as they are under the misconception that they will have to re-serve all their waiting periods again, or that existing conditions will not be covered.

But Mr Goode stressed this "is simply not the case".

"All insurers are required by law to give you full credit for time served with previous providers.

"Once there is no break in your cover and you change to an equivalent plan, you will be on cover immediately with the new provider assuming you've served all your waiting periods already."

Irish Independent

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