Central Bank to force health insurers to do more for switchers

Move comes on the back of research showing that switching rates are very low in the Republic

The Central Bank is to force health insurance providers to more clearly outline the switching options available to customers ahead of policy renewal dates.

The move comes on the back of research showing that switching rates are very low in the Republic with just 15 per cent of consumers changing policy at their last renewal.

In June, 2015, the Central Bank became responsible for the regulation of all the health insurance providers in Ireland for the first time.

Since then it has undertaken on-site supervisory work and consumer research to see how the market worked for consumers "and, in particular, how consumers are being treated at the crucial time of policy renewal," said the bank's Director of Consumer Protection, Bernard Sheridan.

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As a result of the Central Bank review it has issued a ruling which forces providers “to enhance the content and presentation of the information contained in policy renewal notices”.

Renewal

In the future insurance companies will be obliged to clearly explain to consumers that their policy will auto-renew on to the same policy if they do not contact their insurer prior to their renewal date.

They will also have to encourage consumers to make contact during the renewal process to ensure the provider assesses if there are more suitable policies available.

Health insurance experts suggest that anyone who has been on the same health insurance policy for more than two years is almost certainly spending more than they need to for the level of cover required.

“We found that consumers find it difficult to compare policies and most consumers renew the same policy with the same provider,” Mr Sheridan said. “We also found that renewal notices issued to consumers are not highlighting important information, and that providers should be doing more to ensure that they are providing the most suitable insurance policy, particularly when consumers are purchasing on-line.”

According to the Central Bank report renewal notices do not provide sufficient information to consumers on the importance of contacting their insurer to ensure that they are being offered the most suitable policy to meet their needs.

Providers collect less information from consumers purchasing online prior to making recommendations, compared to the face-to-face or telephone-based sales process.

Providers’ websites, when recommending a policy, do not offer consumers policies from their full range of available policies.

The bank said it would be pursuing providers regarding the process for gathering information for website quotations and the range of policies offered through their websites.

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor and cohost of the In the News podcast