With 400,000 health insurance consumers due to receive renewal notices from December for policies renewing in January 2017, and 45% of all policies in the market due for renewal in H1 2017, the advice from the expert is “act now and review before you renew”. Otherwise, you could be facing massive price hikes, says Dermot Goode, Ireland’s leading health insurance expert.

Mr. Goode, founder of www.totalhealthcover.ie says “2016 hasn’t been kind on health insurance members, who, by year end, will have borne the brunt of premium increases of up to 13% and higher. 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. A pretty good reason to plan ahead!”

Totalhealthcover.ie says 2016 saw a raft of premium increases, and that insurers may not be finished yet. VHI and Laya both had two main increases over the year with cumulative increase on some plans exceeding 10%. In the past few weeks further increases have been outlined, with Laya announcing another hike in January 2017 (average 5%), GloHealth increasing many of their plans from December 2016 (average 5.9%), and Irish Life Health announcing an increase to their rates from 1st Jan 2017 (average 6.3%). Consumers need to be very wary of these ‘average’ figures, as some plans may see increases far in excess of them.

Earlier this month Totalhealthcover.ie drew attention to the fact that public hospitals were charging new higher rates to public patients who hold private health insurance cover. The health insurance experts contend that 2017 could see rates increase by a further 6% – 8% in 2017 if this issue is not addressed.

Dermot explained, “It would appear that public hospitals are seeking out those patients with health insurance and persuading them to agree to accept private healthcare charges with no obligation to deliver any private services. As a result, we are now feeling and will continue to feel, the real impact of these practices on health insurance premiums. While the cost of claims is an ongoing cost driver, what is more worrying is the emerging trend of increasing claims costs from the public hospital sector”.

TotalHealthCover.ie say that over the course of December and right into Q1 2017, approximately 45% of all private health insurance members will receive renewal notices.

Dermot advised, “People should see these notices as a ‘call to action’. Phone your health insurer and other competing insurers to find the best plan for you. Do your home-work before-hand as insurers are required by law to give you access to all plans once you ask for them by name. 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.

In particular, we are calling on people who have been on the same plan for 2 years or more not to let their cover simply ‘roll over’, as the majority of these people may be over-paying by 10 – 20% or more for their cover. 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.”

Analysis of some plans by Totalhealthcover.ie shows 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.

Totalhealthcover.ie say that while premiums have increased there is still great value on the market with all insurers offering special offers, discounts and valuable corporate plans.

Dermot concluded, “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. We then considered the level of savings that could be achieved by switching to an alternative quality plan, based on the deals coming onto the market, and found that some families could typically save between €780 – €2,995 depending on the insurer, the plan held, and the renewal date”.

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