“People wisely took out cover in 2015 to avoid the new age loading but may now be overpaying by multiples of the 2% loading figure.”

When it comes to the increasing cost of health insurance, consumer inertia is one of the main factors according to Dermot Goode, leading health insurance expert with Totalhealthcover.ie.

Of the 100,000 consumers who joined health insurance prior to the deadline of 30th April 2015, approximately 50% of these (50,000) took out an entry-level plan for themselves and their families in order to get into the system and avoid future loadings. The experts at Totalhealthcover.ie are warning that the premiums on many of those plans have risen considerably over the intervening years, and better deals are now available with almost identical cover, some of which may be up to 20% cheaper.

Mr. Goode is advising policyholders: “Our research indicates that many people don’t bother reviewing or switching their cover at renewal, so it very likely that the majority of these customers will continue to overpay. Many younger members believe that because they joined an entry-level plan some years ago, there are no savings to be achieved. Think again – new plans are coming on-stream almost monthly and other plans are being discounted from time-to-time, so people should always check the other options prior to renewal to ensure that potential savings are not being missed.”

Lifetime Community Rating (LCR) was introduced in May 2015 to encourage younger members to join health insurance early to avoid these new age loadings.  Now, anyone who is over 34 on joining and who has never had health insurance previously, will be charged a 2% loading on the gross premium for every year over 34.

For example, a 44-year-old is 10 years over the threshold and therefore will have a 20% on their gross premium.

Examples of the potential consumer savings

Mr. Goode has outlined just some of the plans and providers that are now offering cheaper policies: “Many Laya customers joined the Assure Vitality scheme which now costs €599 per adult and €175 per child (Family Cost €1,548).  But they could now switch to a similar plan called Assure Protect which will reduce their costs to €536 per adult and €170 per child, bringing the total family cost to €1,412.  However, as Laya are offering free cover for the 2nd and subsequent child under 18, this family could reduce their total cost to €1,242 by placing their youngest child on the Flex 125 Choice scheme for the next year which will be free-of-charge.  This reduces their cost to €1,242 for the family which is a total saving of €306 or 20% for the coming year – a massive potential saving.  The Laya Assure Protect scheme covers all public hospitals which may not be the case with some of the lower cost alternatives from the other insurers.

Consumers who had opted for the Select scheme from Irish Life Health costing €565 per adult and €194 per child (cost for a family with 2 adults and 2 children = €1,518), can now switch to the equivalent Select Starter scheme from Irish Life Health which will reduce their costs to €486 per adult and €135 per child, which amounts to €1,242 for a typical family. This equates to a family saving of €276 or 18% which is huge. Some of these reductions are possible because Irish Life Health reduced the cost of many of their entry-level plans from 1st April on the back of the reduction in health insurance levies recently announced by Government.

The same applies to VHI members who may have joined the VHI One Plan Starter which now costs €510 per adult and €154 per child (Family cost of €1,328 for 2 + 2). These members could now consider the VHI Start Plan at €448 per adult and €103 per child for the coming year. This plan doesn’t cover every public hospital but may be more than adequate for a family looking to minimise their costs. The family cost of this plan will be €1,102 – a saving of €226 or 17% for the coming year.”

A word of warning…

Mr. Goode is urging caution before making any changes: “Many people believe that these plans offer comprehensive health cover which is absolutely not the case.  The insurers have had to strip everything possible from these plans to get the price down.  These plans only cover public hospitals with minimum benefits included for everything else.  If you want comprehensive cover for public and private hospitals such as the Beacon Hospital, Hermitage Clinic, Whitfield in Waterford etc., you need to be considering plans at the next level such as the following;”

– One Plan 250 at €855 per adult from VHI
– Essential Health 300 at €895 from Laya
– Benefit 2 Scheme at €875 from Irish Life Health (covers most public and private hospitals)

Totalhealthcover.ie say that anyone who has renewed their cover on or after 15th April, is still within their 14-day cooling-off period and can still amend or even cancel their cover if they wish.


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