Private Health Insurance – Time to Shop Around
Dermot Goode
Dermot Goode

Dermot Goode is a leading expert on healthcare benefits in Ireland and Health Cover Analyst with Total Health Cover. We check in with Dermot to see how best to optimise our health insurance plans and manage healthcare costs as we move into a new year.

The recent period of price stability in private health insurance has come to an end with all insurers increasing their rates from 3-6% and two of the insurers have just announced a further increase of approx. 1% before year end. This means that all savings made over the past two years will effectively be wiped out. Those on the oldest or most dated schemes could see their costs increase by €160 – €320 per adult which means they will have no option but to shop around to keep the cost affordable for the next year.

The Irish health insurance market is constantly changing and there are nearly 340 plans to choose from. New corporate plans are being launched almost monthly for employer schemes, and every consumer can access these plans if they wish. These corporate plans tend to offer the best value as they cover all public and private hospitals and include guaranteed refunds on out-patient expenses such as GP, consultant and physiotherapy fees, with no excess to pay first. They usually include a small excess per claim for private hospital stays only, which is worth considering especially if there’s a big saving to be made on the annual premium. Unfortunately, too many consumers “auto-renew”, failing to review their options prior to the renewal date and they miss out on valuable cost savings sometimes even from the same insurer.

Is Switching Straightforward?
The answer is absolutely yes if you approach the task properly. You will first need to note the following;

  • All insurers must give you full credit for previous membership
  • This means that if you switch to an equivalent plan from your renewal date, you will be on cover immediately
  • No insurer can charge you a higher premium based on your previous claims, pending medical treatment or current health status
  • No insurer can refuse to insure you or try to exclude cover for certain treatments or existing conditions based on your health status
  • The only two questions that you must answer are a) what cover do you hold at present and b) for how long have you been insured

 

The key point is not to let misguided loyalty or fear of switching hold you back. If you find an alternative plan that gives you the cover you need at the right price, engage with the insurer by phone to establish exactly how this plan compares to your existing cover and if you’re happy with the answers, just switch!

How do I get advice on the best insurance policy?
Whilst there are plans on the market now to suit all preferences and budgets, many consumers struggle with the sheer volume of choice and therefore end up doing nothing. There are numerous brokers in the market providing advice in this area but make sure you select an advisor that specialises full-time in health insurance. Be very careful of comparison websites for health insurance – none of these are designed to provide advice and the data may not be completely up-to-date. Whilst they are a useful guide to what’s available, always engage with the health insurer or a qualified advisor before making any final choice as they are responsible and accountable for any advice provided.

Your first port of call prior to renewal should be to your existing insurer. Ask them to suggest lower-cost alternatives that give you equivalent cover to your current plan and ask them to consider all of their corporate plans including those with a small excess per claim for you to review. Keep the insurer on the phone as the calls are recorded and tell them everything that’s important to you both now and going forward to make sure this is covered by any recommended alternative. If you’re not happy with the outcome, then apply the same approach to the other health insurers as well. Whilst this may seem tedious, the savings in many cases can be between €500 – €1,000 per adult especially for those on the oldest plans.

If you have elderly parents or relatives who are still insured on dated plans, offer to help them review their cover. The inertia factor is most prevalent with older members as they’re most fearful of change and they struggle with the insurance jargon. However, with a little bit of help and reassurance, they can often slash their health insurance costs and keep excellent cover in place. If you are in any doubt, seek advice from a qualified health insurance advisor and let them do the “heavy lifting” for you.

How do I know if I’m over-insured?
If you are on the same plan for three years or more paying in excess of €1,800 per adult and you haven’t considered a corporate plan, then you are likely to be overpaying and should consider a full review of your cover prior to your next renewal date.

Also, if you have all the family on the same plan, you could be missing out on potential savings from splitting your cover. Finally, if you do not have a small excess on your plan; if you are not getting “young adult” rates for your 18-24 year old dependents; or if you do not receive guaranteed refunds on out-patient costs, then a comprehensive review is long overdue. Don’t just accept the latest round of rate increases; review your cover properly prior to your next renewal date to make sure your plan is fit for purpose. The savings may be well worth it!

All prices quoted are net of tax relief at source and are correct as of 01/10/19 as per data from the health insurers. However, prices and benefits are subject to change and consumers should confirm all details directly with the insurer in question. Any comparisons are for information only and should not be considered exact equivalents to the plan held. Before changing plan or provider, please refer to the policy terms and conditions and check everything with the health insurer before switching cover.

PHI Consulting (Ireland) Ltd trading as Total Health Cover www.totalhealthcover.ie is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.

Please note this article represents the views of the author and is not intended to and does not constitute personal recommendations/investment advice nor does it provide the sole basis for any evaluation of products or services discussed.

To speak with a Portfolio Manager or your Account Executive today, please phone the Cantor Fitzgerald dealing desk on 01 633 3633.