Health Insurance

Don’t be afraid of a healthy switch to save money

As the old saying goes – health is wealth. This certainly rings through during times of sickness and unfortunately we just never know when the day might come that we need a hospital or doctor.

Although we have a public health system in Ireland where many services are free we also have the option of taking out private health cover. Between January and February this year around 500,000 people in Ireland will renew their health insurance according to totalhealthcover.ie.

Dermot Goode of total healthcover.ie said his advice to every single health insurance policy holder, and particularly older health insurance members is that they must shop around for better value as premiums continue on their upward trajectory.

“The key is to shop around at each renewal to avoid the impact of increasing coming down the tracks,” he said.

If someone has been on the same plan for three years or more, or is paying more than €1,850 per adult, or does not have a small excess on their policy, then they are at risk of overpaying.

“Dated plans are generally not good value, that’s the essence of it. There are some plans still on the market that we have not recommended to anyone over 10 years. When we review cover for those on these schemes, around 95 percent end up switching to a better value plan with similar cover. And it is predominantly older members that, year-on-year, we see overpaying by huge amounts for their cover,” said Mr Goode.

He said that mostly he finds that people over 50 are most likely to be on plans that have been around for 10 to 20 years or even longer, and while they provide a good level of cover, they are simply way overpriced compared to other options now available.

There are many ways that you can save on your health insurance and it starts with putting time aside to shop around and do your homework. Firstly review your current plan and figure out how long you have been on the plan and how much you are paying. If you have been on the plan for more than three years or paid more than €1,850 for your cover then it’s time for a review.

Also keep an eye out for special offers. Often you will find companies advertising deals or they have email alerts you can sign up for where you will be notified of offers.

Mr Goode said that another way to save money is by giving up the private room.

“Private accommodation in private hospitals is never guaranteed. Unless this is critical for you, consider dropping a level for similar cover but big savings,” he said.

Also for people who are open to switching and don’t mind taking on small excesses in private hospitals, this is one of the best ways to reduce your costs.

Mr Goode said that savings vary, but reductions of at least 10% to 20% may be possible by accepting a small excess in private hospitals only.

Also something to consider is switching to a ‘corporate’ plan as you could get some enhanced benefits on these plans as well as savings.

“You can generate substantial savings by considering alternative corporate plans which are available to all consumers.

“However, there are consumers now on dated corporate plans as well which have been overtaken by lower-cost equivalents.”

Corporate plans tend to be the most competitively priced plans on the market and are worth considering before you renew. They normally cover public and private hospitals and usually include some level of day-to-day cover for your routine medical costs.

“People are still unaware that they are eligible for corporate plans and it is worth chatting to your insurer about what plans are available for you to consider.”

Also for families it can often not make sense to have everyone on the policy at the same level of cover. Everyone has different requirements and the advice is to select a plan for each person reflecting their needs only.

“You can have everyone on the one policy but all on different levels of cover,” said Mr Goode.

Overall the main advice is to not be afraid of change. Traditionally we have been very loyal to our health insurance providers but saving €500 to €1,000 per adult on your annual bill could cover your car and home insurance for another year.

“At least three out of five of all health insurance members are on the wrong plan and this can be a tricky time of year for people to renew because they are often distracted by other things such as the post-Christmas financial hangover which leads to auto-renewals where people let their cover roll over for another year and this is never a good idea without first assessing your options.”

“Think of your health cover like you would car or home insurance. Do your homework each year prior to renewal, get the best deal possible and if you’re satisfied that it meets your requirements then switch,” said Mr Goode.