Irish health insurance premiums have risen by up to 45% in 2011. In March, VHI announced an average policy increase of 15% and up to 45% in some cases. Quinn healthcare also announced an increase for those renewing policies, with premiums to rise by up to 25%. While Aviva increased its premiums by 14%, which sees the cost of its most popular plan rise from €825 to €941.
The reasons for these premium rises are the costs of private beds in public hospitals, medical inflation which is running at 9% and the government imposed health insurance levy.
Customers are advised to shop around to find a better deal. A policy does not have to be expired before searching for a new policy. When somebody switches to a new, an older policy can be cancelled and the period not used has to be fully refunded. While more than 50% of the population in Ireland have health insurance, it is only a legal requirement for students from outside the EU. All people “ordinarily resident” in Ireland are entitled to basic healthcare in hospitals, but have to pay a daily charge of €75 in public hospitals.
A visit to the emergency department costs €100, however, if referred by a doctor, there is no charge. Typically a visit to a doctor costs €60.
The government provides a “medical cards” to people on low income, this card exempts holders from charges, both in hospitals and doctor visits.
Also available from all the companies are what are known as “group schemes”. These are policies aimed at companies and a group discount is applied. Under Irish law, every consumer has to be allowed buy any available policy. So, if a consumer applies for an individual policy, they are advised to ask for the price for that policy as a “group scheme”. The insurance company has to offer the group discount. This will lead to an immediate saving of approximately 10%.
Comparing the various policies on offer can be confusing. In general, the cheaper policies allow for a private bed in a public hospital. More expensive polices give a private bed in a private hospital. The more expensive the policy, the shorter waiting time for tests or treatments. Some policies also have an excess ( this is the amount of money that the customer must pay and will not be able to claim from the insurance company).
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