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Money Times - December 22, 2015

Posted by Jill Kerby on December 22 2015 @ 09:01

 

 

JANUARY IS THE BIG RENEWAL DEADLINE FOR HEALTH INSURANCE MEMBERS

Last week the specialist healthcare broker Dermot Goode told me that with the health insurers now effectively setting new price points two or three times a year, every one of their 2.2 million customers are probably going to face a price hike at their 2016 renewal date.

“This means that you should treat your health insurance just like your car or house insurance. Shop around every year and change your plan or provider if it means getting a better deal.” That said, one company, Laya Health is offering a two year price guarantee on their Flex 175 Explore plan which covers most public and private hospitals and costs €955 per adult and €280 for children. But he says the guarantee comes “at a high enough price” – aside from the premium, there is also a €175/€100 excess for inpatient and day care events and no day to day expenses refund.

Meanwhile under Lifetime Community Rating, everyone is entitled to change providers, buy any plan on the market, including cheaper corporate plans that may even be identical to yours. These plans are discounted because of the economy of scale involved in offering them to a large company, but because they don’t have to be openly advertised, not everyone is aware of them.

This is where a good broker can help. Every plan will also be listed on the Health Insurance Authority (HIA.ie) website, but with over 400 active plans on the market it can be difficult and time consuming to compare them yourself.

So here are some end of year renewal tips for individuals and families – care of Dermot Goode -  whose website www.totalhealthsavings.ie offers a way to compare plans or individual help.

-       First, make a note of your annual renewal date in your diary and vow to shop around. “Anyone who has been on the same plan for the last two or three years, is definitely overpaying” says Dermot. “Anyone who has never changed plans is unnecessarily paying a fortune”.

-       Before switching to a new plan, either at the same price/benefits level or a one with lower benefits, Dermot suggests that you are clear about the sorts of hospitals you want access to – public only, private only,  both or even high tech private hospitals. Different plans cover different hospitals.

-       Are you willing to pay an excess payment for inpatient or day case treatment to keep the cost down?  You may be able to keep the same plan and benefits and save hundreds of euro if you are willing to pay an excess. These are typically €100-€300.

-       Make sure to declare existing medical conditions when switching. If you drop down to a lower benefit plan and some day want to increase your benefits again, you could face a waiting period of at least two years before the condition is covered. Under 35s who bought the basic public hospital plans last April to beat the Lifetime Community Rating loading and subsequently developed a condition, may also face a waiting time if they want to increase their cover in 2016.

-       Family Plans can be very appealing, but it may still be cheaper, says Goode to buy separate plans for the adults and children.

-       In the same way that excesses are not straightforward (some are applied only for a limited number of events, others for all of them), some policies also require co-payments, especially for orthopaedic treatments.  The devil is in the detail of that new policy.

-       If you have children, sometimes the outpatient bills - GP’s and consultants, physiotherapy visits, blood tests, x-rays, etc – are your biggest health costs.  Work out this annual cost and then consider whether or not you need a more costly plan with a 50% or 75% refund for everyday, routine expenses.

According to Goode, three insurers - VHI, GloHealth and Aviva are all offering good discounts for children (under-3s and under-18s) in their new plans for 2016. (All the plans include excesses; none include refunds on everyday expenses.)

“All children under 18 are being offered half price premiums by VHI on certain One Plus plans. They are quite cheap at €130 a year. GloHealth, meanwhile, are offering free cover for all children up to age three under their new Lifestyle Bloom plans and half price for under 12’s under the Lifestyle Nurture plans. They start at €140. Aviva’s new Select Plus Plan for kids under 18 cost €168 a year.”

Finally, he recommends that customers on lower value hospital plans, with little or no everyday cover, consider a cash plan from HSF.ie .

“These are great plans that charge just one premium for the entire family, regardless of how many children you have and tax-free payments for GPs/ consultant visits, dental and optical treatments, physio, etc.

“The HSF Family Direct A plan costs €678 for the entire family but includes €500 towards routine dental expenses – per member of the family member.”

 

Do you have a personal finance question for Jill or would you like a copy of her new Talking Money Guide, which can also be downloaded directly at www.irishlife.ie? Write c/o this newspaper or by email: jill@jillkerby.ie

 

 

 

 

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