TIPS TO HELP YOU BEAT THE HIKES
A: Health insurance is basically a voluntary tax. It is the price almost half the population pays to jump the queues which plague the public health system. By having health insurance, we ensure that if we have an unexpected and unexplained lump or pain we will be seen immediately by a consultant. What we are buying is peace of mind.
A: Although 123,000 people have given up their health insurance over the past three years, almost 2.2m people still have private health insurance. This means that, despite over 300,000 people losing their jobs, hanging on to their private health insurance cover remains, along with paying the mortgage, a top priority for many Irish people.
However, there is clear evidence that many Irish people with health insurance are over-insured. Do you really need that private room in a private hospital? The reality is that, once a serious illness is diagnosed there is very little, if any, difference in how private and public patients are treated, and that, as soon as you have skipped the queue, your VHI cover will have largely done its job.
A: Although the VHI's legal monopoly was broken up as far back as 1994, it still retains a market share of almost 60pc. Many people have been with the VHI all their lives and wouldn't dream of switching. Bad move. That inertia can cost you big time. When your health insurance policy comes up for renewal, check out what level of cover you really need and play the different health insurance companies off against one another. You will be surprised at how much you can save.
A: Quinn announced a 6pc price increase last month, meaning that it has increased its prices by a cumulative 25pc in the space of just a year. Meanwhile, Aviva has also announced a 15pc price increase for this year bringing its cumulative price increase over the past 13 months to a truly astronomical 42pc. As the levy on all health insurance policies, which compensates the VHI for having a higher proportion of older, loss-making customers, begins to bite the price gap between the VHI and the other health insurance companies is starting to narrow.
A: Au contraire. While the gap between average VHI prices and those charged by Quinn and Aviva may be narrowing, significant price disparities still remain between the different health insurers' competing plans. Log on to the Health Insurance Authority's website, www.hia.ie and compare what you are paying for your cover versus the prices being charged by the competition. You may be surprised at the difference.
A: Be utterly ruthless. After spending a couple of hours on the HIA's website, and determining what policies are suitable for you and your family, ask the competing health insurance companies for quotations. Then go back to your existing health insurance company and demand that they match it. If that doesn't work out you can always switch to a rival firm.