How can I maintain my health insurance cover on moving back to Ireland?

Ask the Experts: Will my family be affected by the Lifetime Community Rating?

Private healthcare insurance for returning emigrants

Private healthcare insurance for returning emigrants

 

Question:

I’m in the process of moving home to Ireland from Canada with my wife and new baby. While in Vancouver my employer paid my health insurance and also that of my wife. I want to continue to maintain my private health cover when I’m back in Ireland but I’m concerned because I read something recently about the introduction of a lifetime community rating in Ireland. How will this affect me? I am 36 and have never had health insurance in Ireland as an adult. I’ve been away for the past eight years.

Answer: Dermot Goode, Health Insurance Consultant,totalhealthcover.ie

I can report both good and bad news on this front.

Assuming you all left Ireland prior to May 1st, 2015, which it appears you did, and assuming you take out cover in Ireland within nine months of returning home, which it seems like you intend to do, then you will not be penalised by these age loadings, that is, the Lifetime Community Rating will not apply.

Unfortunately, however, it is likely that what are known as “waiting periods” will apply to you and your family. This is because domestic insurers in Ireland are not obliged to recognise time spent with other insurers while abroad. This means that your family will be subject to the normal waiting periods on joining, as with any person taking out health insurance in Ireland. These are: immediate cover for any accidents; six month waiting period for any new condition arising after joining; 12 month waiting period for maternity services; up to five year exclusion on pre-existing conditions.

It’s important to point out that if you and your family are currently in good health with no serious underlying conditions that could lead to in-patient treatment, then the five year pre-existing exclusion won’t be an issue.

My advice to you would be to approach all three health insurers and assess their offerings. Insurers look at this on a case by case basis but sometimes one or more might be willing to waive the six month initial waiting period for new members and while this can’t be guaranteed, it’s certainly worth looking into.

Have a query for our panel of experts about emigrating, life abroad or moving home? Email them to abroad@irishtimes.com. This column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional advice.

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