Health Insurance: Save on peace of mind
Consumers can save money on health cover if they shop around and review their policy, writes Charlie Weston
AS many as three out of four people with health insurance membership are still on the wrong plans and pay too much for their cover.
Even those who take the trouble to review their cover don't realise that you need to do this annually as you would car or home insurance, according to health insurance expert Dermot Goode of TotalHealthCover.ie.
Too many consumers rely on what their health insurers offer them and many are still afraid to switch for all the wrong reasons, he says.
"Think of it like a puzzle and those who tackle it properly will always find the correct solution.
"Those who give in or leave it to the last minute will miss the optimum solution, which means they will pay too much for their cover," he added.
Those who have never reviewed their cover; those with all the family insured on the same plan; or those paying for extras such as private rooms etc have yet to tackle the puzzle and are definitely over-paying, Mr Goode said.
To solve the puzzle and shop smartly, he says, you need to follow these simple rules irrespective of whether you hold an individual or family policy:
• Don't rely on what the insurers offer you: do your own homework and tell the insurer what you want rather than relying on their recommendations;
• When you do contact the insurer, make them do the work for you: never ask an open question such as "what do you recommend". Ask for the nearest equivalent plan to what you have in place already across their entire suite of products;
• Check out the corporate plans: while these don't suit everyone, they tend to offer the most competitive benefits and prices. Remember, they are available to anyone regardless of age, gender or occupation;
• Shop around each year at renewal: if you do this annually, you can track the best deals and often retain identical benefits for the same cost;
• Split cover to avail of family discounts: for those with dependents, you need to consider their needs separately. Don't put everyone on the same level of cover. Check for any special discounts for child cover and leave the adults on separate cover with everyone still insured on the one policy;
• Don't be afraid to switch: the legislation is very protective of consumers in that you get full credit for time served on other policies. If you switch to an equivalent policy with another insurer, then you will be on cover immediately assuming you've already served your waiting periods;
•Take on small excesses to maximise savings: these only apply in private hospitals and are per admission (not per night). This is one of the best tactics to reduce your overall cost without compromising on key aspects of cover;
• Get professional advice: don't let confusion or complexity get the better of you. If you have concerns but you need to reduce your costs, seek out a competent adviser and let them do all the work for you. The savings will be well worth it;
• Help is at hand: sites such as www.hia.ie have full information on all plans on the market and it's free of charge.
Smart shoppers have long since realised that the longer a plan has been on the market, the greater the likelihood that it has been overtaken by a lower-cost equivalent, Mr Goode added.