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Money Times - October 27, 2015

Posted by Jill Kerby on October 27 2015 @ 09:00

DON’T EVER OVERPAY FOR YOUR HEALTH INSURANCE 

This is the start of the busiest time for private health insurance renewals, for companies renewing their corporate schemes and for individuals.  

And that means you have a chance to save yourself, your family or your company, hundreds or even thousands of euros over the next year by reviewing and changing your existing policy. 

Last Wednesday, the specialist broker, Dermot Goode of TotalHealthCover.ie was making one of his regular appearances on The Pat Kenny Show and,as always provided example after example of keener prices on existing levels of cover.

Co-incidentally, the night before Dermot appeared I was giving a personal finance seminar to the Offaly Ladies Group that included powerpoint slides of popular and alternative health insurance plans that Mr Goode had provided. As expected, the Offaly ladies (who had been addressed by Dermot a year earlier) took out their phones and photographed the new, updated prices.

What was so reassuring was that even in this lovely, rural part of Co Offaly, the most important message of all was being taken on board -  that health insurance is not a luxury, but an essential part of personal protection insurance.

Let’s put this last statement in context. 

The State will spends well over €13 billion on public healthcare next year in a country with just 4.5 million people – about half of whom them under age 25 and are the least likely to need the service.  Yet it also continues to lose struggle to provide efficient, comprehensive, accessible health-care when it’s needed and not 12 or 18 months after you start feeling unwell or showing symptoms of a serious condition. 

And this is why nearly 2.2 million of us still voluntary pay €1,000 or more on top of the average c€3,500 in tax per working adult that we must pay to the State for the HSE. Anyone without a medical or GP card (but not necessarily private health insurance) also pays hundreds of millions more to other private medical practitioners like GPs, consultants, physiotherapists, psychologists, dieticians, speech therapists, etc.  

Unlike the monolithic, unaccountable HSE and Department of Health, if the professionals who work in the private health sector do not deliver the service they offer (and for which they are highly regulated by the State) or were continuously loss-making, they would answer to their shareholders and bankers (in the case of private hospitals) who would then withdraw their investments and call in their loans and shut them down. (This is what happened to Mt Carmel Hospital.)

The private health providers also know that their highly qualified staff would quit and go their competitors if they were exploited or their wages weren’t paid (unlike HSE staff who know that they will always get paid because taxpayers have no choice but to finance their wages and pensions). 

And most importantly of all, they know their customers – the patients they treat – would stop using their services and go to their competitors (or the Courts) if they were unhappy or dissatisfied. Unfortunately, once you are entirely at the mercy of the HSE – as a medical cardholder, for example – you don’t have that choice. Nor are you guaranteed to be treated as a valued customer/patient, except by those HSE staff who do their best to care for their patients as they would want to be cared for. 

I’m not trying to score political points here.  Instead I’m reinforcing the real message from that hugely informative half hour that Dermot Goode spent with Pat Kenny last Wednesday (21/10/15 click ‘podcast’ at www.newstalk.com): that the private health insurance industry is responding to customer demand for good cover at lower prices.  As Goode explained, the most competitive plans, with access to both public and private hospitals and which also pay c50% (or more) of outpatient costs are the ‘corporate’ ones that are often designed with a single large company in mind with hundreds or thousands of workers.  But because of our community rating system, anyone is entitled to buy such a plan, the catch being that the corporate plan won’t be advertised to the general public and you need to know the name of the plan you want when you contact the provider. 

For years – until it became too expensive – my husband, son and I were Laya ‘Health Manager’ plan holders. A superb, comprehensive plan, it now costs €3,780 per adult! On Dermot’s advice we kept switching to Laya’s corporate equivalent’s of this plan . This year we have switched to a near equivalent of Health Manager, though now with a €150 annual excess and a reduced annual outpatient refund. It is Simply Connect Plus …and it costs €1,099. 

Check your renewal date. Read the plan benefits carefully, especially if you have any pre-existing conditions. 

Take advice. Listen to the podcast. Save money…a lot of money. 

Do you have a personal finance question for Jill? Write to her c/o this newspaper or by email:  HYPERLINK "mailto:jill@jillkerby.ie" jill@jillkerby.ie

 

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