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Upgrade in health policies as more of us fear catching Covid on hospital wards

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Hospital Stock photo: PA

Hospital Stock photo: PA

PA Wire/PA Images

Hospital Stock photo: PA

Large numbers of people with health insurance are upgrading their cover to ensure they can get access to a private room.

This is down to fears they will catch Covid-19 if they are in a ward with other people, according to Dermot Goode of TotalHealthCare.ie.

People who have health cover do not want to have to share a room, toilets and washing facilities with others in case they catch Covid-19.

Mr Goode said that feedback, based on 1,000 health insurance policy reviews, shows a surge of interest to switch from semi-private cover in public hospitals.

Semi-private wards can have up to five beds, Mr Goode said.

Elderly people and those with underlying conditions are particularly anxious.

Mr Goode said that for those insured on dated semi-private schemes, which typically cost €2,500 a member, there are alternative private-room corporate plans ranging in cost from €1,400 to €1,850 per adult.

"Therefore, it is possible to actually upgrade your cover and still reduce your cost substantially."

He said he would encourage any member concerned about sharing accommodation to consider private-room options for private hospitals prior to their next renewal.

But he warned it is important to be aware of the upgrade rule which applies equally across all the insurers.

This means that if you have any existing medical conditions, you will still be assessed under your previous semi-private plan for a further two years, even if you upgrade to a private room scheme, Mr Goode said.

The private-room cover will begin straight away for any new conditions arising after the change has come into effect.

The pandemic has also made people consider mental health supports as part of their cover, Mr Goode said.

"There has also been a marked increase in the numbers using online supports such as digital doctor, GP lines, nurse lines, mental health supports etc," he said.

Mr Goode said it was too early to say if large numbers would cancel their cover.

Fears have grown that people will drop cover as jobs are lost and incomes cut.

Cancelling

Many wonder what the point of private cover is when they couldn't access private medical facilities earlier in the year when the HSE took over private hospitals.

"Covid has touched the health insurance market and is having an impact on people's behaviour. It's too early to tell whether financial strains will have a big impact on people cancelling their cover, though early indicators suggest the numbers will be low," he said.

Meanwhile, the research carried out by TotalHealthCover.ie shows that three out of five health insurance members are potentially on the wrong plans.

These people could be over-paying by up to €500 for their cover, Mr Goode said.

Mr Goode said: "Our message to policyholders is don't let fear of change or inertia hold you back."

Mr Goode said that many older members, and those aged 60 plus in particular, are still reluctant to change due to factors such as fear of losing benefits and misplaced loyalty.