It’s the loveliest time of the year, but the postman doesn’t just deliver Christmas cards to the mailbox: since the last week of November, more than half a million people have received extension notices for their private health insurance, the same number again for extensions before the end of February.
Here’s an extra boost this Christmas to take time between gift shopping and parties to review your health insurance needs, as health insurance costs will be increasing from January when your other bills for the holiday season start to arrive.
Even as inflation soared elsewhere in the economy during the first nine months of the year, average health insurance prices fell 3 percent, according to figures from the Health Insurance Administration (HIA). Insurers gave partial discounts to members earlier this year because of fewer claims during the pandemic when private hospitals were taken over by the HSE to provide burst capacity. But now premiums will increase due to medical inflation and return to normal in post Covid private hospitals.
“Consumers have become accustomed to stable health insurance rates in recent years, but they need to be prepared for increases,” says TotalHealthCover.ie health insurance analyst Dermot Goode. “Every hospital in the country has seen their electric and gas bills double and labor and equipment costs have gone through the roof.”
How to defy imminent price increases and save up to €1,000:
1 Watch your timing
Irish Life Health was the first company last month to announce a price increase. The average price of its plans will increase by almost 5 percent starting January 1 for new and existing customers. If your Irish Life policy is due to be renewed before December 31st avoid the increase, but even if your renewal date is January 1st you can look around and end your cover on December 31st.
Goode expects Vhi and Laya Healthcare to follow suit by February at the latest, with average price increases of at least 5 percent.
Alan Cleary, health manager at McCarthy Insurance Group, says some customers are willing to take the risk of not having health insurance for a few days if they change the renewal date to avoid a price hike. However, only do this under the guidance of a professional.
2 Check your cover
Goode estimates that about 50 percent of policyholders have the wrong plan.
Laura Brien, CEO of the HIA, says: “People often have elements in a policy that they don’t need, or they lack coverage for important areas that they might appreciate at other times.”
As you develop new medical needs as you age, you may want additional cardiology or orthopedic coverage. On the downside, you may be paying unnecessarily for access to high-tech private hospitals like Beacon Hospital or Blackrock Clinic, which use specialty equipment and treat complex cardiac and orthopedic conditions, Cleary says.
“You have to do your due diligence to see if you’re using the right product,” he says. “To bring costs down, you could remove high-tech hospitals or make a plan with access to just one private hospital per city instead of all.”
3 Shop around
Even if your plan doesn’t go up in price, you’re probably still overpaying or overinsured if you’ve had the same plan for three years and pay more than €1,900 per adult, but not in a new corporate plan, you don’t get 50 to 75 percent on GP and consultant fees, or if you pay the full adult rate for children ages 18 to 20, Goode says. If this is you, take a look around.
“Anyone with Vhi HealthPlus Extra (€2,740), Laya Essential Plus (deductible) (€3,083) or Level 2 Hospital Deductible with Irish Life (€2,567) could save €1,000 and enjoy the same – or even better – coverage,” he says. “There are some really good £1,500 plans out there.”
If you simply auto-renew – which older people with underlying medical conditions are particularly prone to – you’ll miss out on new offers and special offers.
“Older people typically overpay 30 to 40 percent,” says Goode.
The legislator protects you from waiting times when switching to another tariff or provider, with a few exceptions.
4 Put the footwork in
Cost-cutters willing to look for a cheaper energy or car insurance provider often balk at the prospect of navigating the 320+ healthcare plans currently available in the Irish market. But as soon as you receive this extension notice, look at the health insurance comparison tool on the KVG website and then call the three health insurance companies.
“Call any insurer, tell them your illness, any surgery you’ve ever had, and what you might have in the future,” says Goode. “Ask, ‘Do you have a cheaper equivalent to what I currently have? I want you to review all of your plans, including business plans. Sit back and let them do the work. It could save you a fortune.”
With this information, contact a regulated financial adviser or insurance broker for further information.
5 Get a business plan
Business plans may have been developed for the business sector but are available to any individual consumer in the Irish market. They usually offer the best value for money as they cover all public and private hospitals with a small deductible per claim.
6 Leave your private room
If you don’t mind sharing a room at the hospital, give up your cover for a private room. Going semi-private in a private hospital means a ward has up to five beds, but in some of Dublin’s newer hospitals semi-private wards may only have two beds. Also, even if you pay for a private room, there is no guarantee that you will get it in a private hospital – and rarely in a public hospital.
7 Accept an excess
Plans with higher deductibles are usually cheaper than those with no or low deductibles. Significant premium savings can be achieved by assuming a small deductible – usually between 75 and 150 euros.
8 Put the kids on a different plan
Even within the same policy, you can split your coverage and put the kids on a cheaper plan.
Adults typically need higher insurance coverage because they are at greater risk of developing a medical condition that could result in high medical bills at a private hospital, and children’s health insurance is cheaper. If you have more than one child, you can insure your second or third child under the age of 18 for free with a Laya offer starting January 1st.
“But if you don’t contact your insurer or ask about these plans by name, they won’t be offered to you,” says Goode.
If you’re in the one-fifth of the population who can’t afford private health insurance but aren’t entitled to a health insurance card, then you might be pinning your hopes on Sláintecare, the healthcare strategy that promises to replace Ireland’s two-tier healthcare system with a single system , where patients are promptly treated based on their need rather than their ability to pay.
However, the rollout of Sláintecare, which started in 2017, has been slow, partly due to the fight against Covid-19, key figures involved in implementation having resigned from their positions, staff shortages and hundreds of vacant consultant positions. Long waiting lists and overcrowded hospitals have only resulted in more people taking out private health insurance; Admissions in the third quarter were 3 percent higher than a year earlier.
However, recent budgetary measures should alleviate some of the financial burden. Those under 16 no longer have to pay the hospital fee of €80 per day and the government abolished the fee for all public patients in the last budget. From April, the government plans to extend free family doctor care to households with an annual income of less than 46,000 euros. In the drug payment system, you only pay a maximum of €80 per month for all prescriptions, with the threshold dropping from €114 to €100 in previous budgets.
Make sure you claim your tax credit for medical expenses you pay. Expenses that are eligible for relief include doctor visits, consultant fees, prescription medications, physical therapy, some dental procedures, and routine maternity care.
https://www.independent.ie/business/personal-finance/tis-the-season-to-save-on-health-insurance-as-those-policy-renewal-notices-start-to-arrive-42207699.html It’s time to save on health insurance as these contract renewal notices arrive