Being your own health insurance broker has never been easier
The Health Insurance Authority’s useful online tool allows you to take control. Review your health insurance plan, know your benefits and see where you can make savings
“I found it very useful to narrow down the search,” says Liz Doyle, who tried the HIA’s comparison tool to compare health insurance plans. Photograph: Getty Images
Close to 50 per cent of policy holders’ plans are up for renewal during the next three months. In this chaotic year, as health circumstances and financial situations have changed for so many, it has never been more important to ensure your health insurance meets your needs. Price is a huge factor, and if you’re ready to commit to 30 minutes to an hour of analysis, your efforts can pay dividends.
Searching and seeking information can take up a huge amount of time, but with the Health Insurance Authority’s online comparison tool, weighing up your options becomes a lot easier. It allows you to compare the benefits and prices of all private health insurance plans available on the Irish health insurance market.
As an impartial, government body that regulates the private health insurance market, you can also rest easy that you’re not being upsold or influenced towards any particular provider.
So, how easy is it to use?
We asked an Irish Times reader, whose plan was up for renewal, to road test the comparison tool and let us know how she got on. Liz Doyle is an admin manager from Co Wicklow, and she takes on the responsibility for managing the family health insurance plans for her husband and their three young children.
I found it very useful to narrow down the search
“I like the security of having private health insurance,” she explains. “I used to work in insurance, though mostly home, business and motor, and I have seen the pitfalls of not holding a good plan. Sometimes you’re not covered for what you think you are, and you don’t know until you claim.”
Liz points to one experience with her health insurance provider a few years ago whereby at the end of the year she got a significantly lower amount back than expected for everyday expenses, as she had misunderstood how the excess would apply.
It’s exactly the sort of thing the tool can help you to check and watch out for, allowing you to compare the features and benefits of multiple plans in the Irish market using simple visual selection metrics and side-by-side comparisons.
You can pick your current plan and compare it with similar plans from other providers, seeing what benefits each offer. The tool delivers information that can help you decide whether you should stay with your current health insurance provider, or make a switch.
Be your own broker
Due to her background in insurance, she is familiar with the terminology and is the kind of person who reviews their plan each year – a rarity.
“The language can be confusing, especially around limits and restrictions,” she says. Liz has tried her best to switch frequently for the best part of the last decade. She has forgotten to change and stuck to the same plan out of forgetfulness – and regretted it.
“I was paying over the odds and was planning to change. Things got very busy in December and I forgot about the auto renewal until the funds came out of my account. I had an irritating reminder then for a whole year.”
Start with the online tool
This year, Liz has used the HIA comparison tool to help her. “I found it very useful to narrow down the search. I then called insurers directly. It’s about an hour’s work at the start, but as you get used to the process and terminology, you understand more each year what to watch out for, and it gets quicker.”
Liz says the HIA online tool is a great starting point for comparison, “It gives you knowledge of what’s important in your plan that you can discuss with insurers.”
She cites one feature of the tool as being particularly useful. “It shows less well-known plans, like company policies. Technically any consumer can sign up to a company policy, they just won’t get the company discount if they don’t work in the relevant place. But these plans can have lots of benefits included and are at good prices, even without the staff discount.”
To avail of HIA’s impartial information on health insurance plans, visit the online health insurance comparison tool.
Alternatively, call 1850 929 166 to speak to a consumer affairs specialist. If one isn’t available, you will be asked to leave a voicemail stating the best time to call back at. Your call will be returned within 48-72 hours at a time that suits you and will take approximately 30 minutes. Or you can email email@example.com.
You will need three details to hand: your renewal date, plan name, and ages of consumers. The HIA get notifications 30 days in advance, so if your renewal is January 1st, you can call them from December 1st for the most up-to-date information.