How to avoid a health insurance premium hike in January

Some 400,000 are renewing health policies next month. How can you get better value?

Health insurance: If you’ve been on the same plan for two years, try not to let it just roll over. Many are  overpaying by 10-20 per cent for their cover.

Health insurance: If you’ve been on the same plan for two years, try not to let it just roll over. Many are overpaying by 10-20 per cent for their cover.

 

If you are one of the 400,000 or so Irish consumers due to receive a renewal letter for your private health insurance in January, acting now to “review before you renew”, could save you hundreds of euro.

“Approximately 400,000 policies fall due for renewal in January alone, and so we are issuing this warning to consumers to get organised and start reviewing policies now. If they take steps now to review their cover, they could save themselves hundreds and even thousands on their cover for next year depending on the plan held. Older members who switch from dated plans stand to make the biggest savings,” said Dermot Goode of Totalheathcover.ie.

Already this year, health insurance customers have stomached price rises of up to 13 per cent, and further price hikes of up to 8 per cent could be on the cards for 2017.

VHI and Laya, for example, both had two main increases over the year with cumulative increases on some plans exceeding 10 per cent. Now Glohealth is next up with an average increase of 5.9 per cent in December, followed by Laya, again, which is set to push prices up by an average of 7 per cent (on 56 plans) and 5 per cent (on 49 plans) in January, and Irish Life Health, which is to increase its rates by an average of 7.5 per cent from January 1st.

An ongoing issue for insurers is the rising cost of claims from public hospitals, as patients with health insurance are persuaded to agree to accept private healthcare charges with no obligation to deliver any private services. This is having upward pressure on prices.

“As a result, we are now feeling and will continue to feel, the real impact of these practices on health insurance premiums,” says Goode.

But what should consumers do?

Do your homework: Phone your health insurer and other competing insurers to find the best plan for you. “Always ask for the closest equivalent plan to what you have instead of asking for their recommendation! Also, it is recommended that you never purchase health insurance online as you may miss some of the best deals,” Goode recommends. A good place to start your research is hia.ie.

Don’t let your cover roll over: . Older members are most at risk and if they’re afraid to undertake this task themselves, siblings, other family members or close friends should assist them as they are potentially missing out on massive savings,” says Goode.

Shop around: A recent survey by the Health Insurance Authority for example found that a family of two adults and two children, with a plan that costs €4,500 a year and provides public hospital cover, a semi-private room in a private hospital and day-to-day benefits, could save a third and cut their premium to €3,000 if they moved to a plan with a €150 hospital excess.

Figures from Goode also show that families could save anything from €780 to €2,995, depending on the plan held and their renewal date. “Those members on dated level-1 plans (public hospital cover only) could save anything from €150-€880 by upgrading to a more recent level-2 plan (covers public and private hospitals), and they will also benefit from better overall cover.”

Don’t be afraid to try a new plan: Have you always been on VHI’s Plan B? Or Laya’s HealthManager? Well don’t be afraid to try something new.

“We have analysed a selection of family plans falling due for renewal and found that some of the traditional plans no longer represent good value for money,” says Goode.