The first quarter of any new year is the busiest for health insurance renewals, with about half of the entire c2.2 million members of the three private healthcare companies deciding whether to keep their existing plan, and as so often happens, pay the inevitable increased premium.
Not so this year.
According to health insurance adviser Dermot Goode of TotalHealthCover.ie the three insurers, VHI, LayaHeath and IrishLifeHealth have begun reversing the cost of premiums on a significant number of their plans, a process that finally recognises the financial health of their companies — and from April, a reduction in health insurance for the nation.
For VHI, the state-owned insurer, dropping the cost of plans has been justified by the fact that they are in profit and have sufficient reserves in place (something that was not the case for many years). Like many publicly owned companies (owned in this case by the people of Ireland) it is now in a position to properly reward its shareholder/customers.
The ongoing difficulties in the management of the public health service — long waiting lists for diagnostic and treatment services, a shortage of hospital beds, poor access to timely out-patient treatments etc continues.
For many parents, who may now have the extra money to add their children to their own policies, it is access to out-patient services that are often the most important: being able to afford to bring their children (over the age of 6) to the GP or a specialist quickly; securing tests when worrying symptoms appear, avoiding multiple doses of antibiotics while waiting to see for example, if a safe, effective tonsilectomy operation will ‘cure’ their child.
With all three insurers having announced significant price reductions, I asked Dermot Goode to list his top family plans. You don’t have to have your children on the same plan — a different plan might be apppropriate — but the family ones will often include added discounts.
“VHI reduced most of their plans by 5%-7% from March 1,” explained Dermot. “They are also continuing with their 50% discounted offer for child cover on plans such as One Plan Family (€149) and Parent & Kids Excess (€155). We prefer the latter plan as the excess is only €75 per private hospital stay.
“The One Plan 250 scheme from VHI has now been reduced from €916 to €855 per adult and this offers reasonably good hospital cover with the first two claims subject to a €250 excess (€150 for day-case).
“This plan has shortfalls on certain orthopaedic and ophthalmic procedures when carried out in private hospitals which needs to be noted.
“A family of two adults on One Plan 250 and the kids on Parent & Kids Excess will cost €2,108 for the year.”
“Laya Healthcare offer free cover for the second and subsequent child under 18 on their Essential Health 300 and Essential Connect Family schemes,” said Dermot explained, adding that “on the latter plan, you pay €239 for the first child and the remaining children are insured free of charge.
“For young adults thinking of joining, the Essential Health 300 offers good value at €895.
“ This plans covers all public and private hospitals with a €300 excess payable on the first two admissions per person. This excess reduces to €125 for each day-case procedure in private hospitals.”
A family of two adults and two children, “will cost €2,025 for the year on the Essential Health 300 scheme, but I understand that Laya will be replacing this deal with a better offering from April 1 in that they will be giving free cover for the second and subsequent child on seven different plans with the best of them being the Flex 125 Choice.”
Irish Life Health
“Good news from Irish Life Health is that they have just announced that they will be reducing the cost of many of their public hospital (level 1) schemes from April 1 in line with the health insurance levy reductions,” Dermot told us. “The company is also still offering discounted rates for children under 18 on their Select Plus (€180) and Nurture Plans (€179).
“It has also launched a new range of Benefit Plans with Benefit 2 — well priced at €875 per adult — covers most public and private hospitals with a €300 excess per private hospital stay, reducing to €150 for day-case procedures.” However, this plan, he added also has some orthopaedic and cardiac procedure shortfalls at private hospitals. A family of four on the Nurture plan will pay €2,108.