Irish couples can save 33% on health insurance by shopping around

Study shows significant savings available to those willing to switch insurance provider

Despite private health insurance now costing an average of €1,174 per person in 2016, Irish consumers remain reluctant to switch provider, figures from the Health Insurance Authority (HIA) show.

Despite private health insurance now costing an average of €1,174 per person in 2016, Irish consumers remain reluctant to switch provider, figures from the Health Insurance Authority (HIA) show.

 

Despite private health insurance (PHI) now costing an average of €1,174 per person in 2016, Irish consumers remain reluctant to switch provider, figures from the Health Insurance Authority (HIA) show.

Indeed, fewer than a quarter (24 per cent) of policyholders have switched provider at any time since taking out private health insurance. For those who have switched, the main reasons given were cost savings (65 per cent) and the level of cover available (23 per cent).

Moreover, despite the price hikes of recent years, the number of people holding private health insurance has held surprisingly steady. At the end of September, some 2,140,000 people were insured, up 7,000 on the preceding three months. This means 45.7 per cent of the population held PHI at the end of September, compared with the 2008 peak of 50.9 per cent, when some 2.3 million people were insured.

But if consumers are so reluctant to drop their PHI, they should at least shop around to seek out a better deal.

‘Competitive’ market

HIA chief executive Don Gallagher asserts that the PHI market is “competitive”.

“The range of insurance plans on offer is changing all the time. Personal and family circumstances also change and this can change the level or type of health insurance needed. Someone who hasn’t reviewed their level of cover, and the price they are paying, in the last three years is unlikely to be getting the best value they can for the cover they need. Switching health insurance product or provider is a very straightforward and easy process,” he says.

Shopping around can reap rewards. A family of two adults and two children, for example, 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.

Similarly, a single person in their 30s, with a plan that provides public hospital cover and a semi-private room in a private hospital, could reduce their premium from about €1,400 to €1,150 by just switching insurer (a saving of almost 18 per cent), or from about €1,150 to €900 by increasing the excess from €125 to €250 (a total saving of more than 35 per cent).

An older couple with a plan that provides public hospital cover and a semi-private room in a private hospital, full orthopaedic cover in a private hospital and cardiac cover for a number of high-tech hospitals, could reduce their premium from about €5,000 to €3,600 if they switched insurer (a saving of 28 per cent).

The problem for many, of course, is that switching can be difficult given the sheer multitude of plans on the market.

Consumers can examine the details of every health insurance plan offered on the Irish market on the HIA website: hia.ie.