Health insurance in Ireland most would say is an absolute necessity. The Health Insurance Authority’s quarterly report shows that in Q2 of 2022, 2.42 million people in Ireland have health insurance, representing 47.3% of our total population.

The Health Insurance Authority (HIA) is a statutory regulator of the private health insurance market in Ireland. They also provide information to consumers regarding their rights and health insurance plans and benefits.

According to its chief executive, Laura Brien, a recent survey has shown one of the key drivers for people taking out a private health insurance policy at the moment is the nervousness surrounding waiting lists.

“It’s insurance in case something happens,” she says. “You have the ability to have a broader choice in terms of where you might like to get treated.”

What are the benefits?

Health insurance or medical insurance is a form of cover that pays some or all of the medical expenses incurred by the policyholder. It offsets the costs of minor and major medical issues, including surgeries and treatment for life-threatening ailments and debilitating conditions. The benefits of a policy depend on what plan you select. Some may include in-patient services, out-patient services, maternity benefits, and medical tests and scans.

The cost of a policy

The average cost of an Irish health insurance policy is currently €1,412 (annually) for all adults, according to the HIA.

“This gives you an idea of the price you should be paying for a plan,” explains Laura. “If you’re looking at a plan for around €2,000, it is on the upper end.” Costs vary depending on your age and policy type.

In 2021, the average policy cost for those under 65 was €1,365 and for those over 65 was €1,971. Health insurance policies don’t have to be expensive. Monthly premiums can cost as little as €16 for a basic scheme or as high as €932 for a fully comprehensive plan.

Choosing the right plan for you

With over 300 policies in Ireland, one of the main challenges people find is picking a policy that is right for them. The HIA has a comparison tool on its website to help customers decide on a policy that fits their needs and budget.

“This comparison tool lists all the plans that are active in the market today along with the benefits and price of each,” explains Laura. “We would encourage people, particularly if you are taking out a policy for the first time, to use the filter tool as it helps narrow down the options available.”

Important steps to take when choosing a health insurance plan.

  • Set a budget: Decide how much you want to spend on a policy. Laura explains: “There is a big trade-off between the price of the policy and the access or shortfall you have to pay in the event you go into the hospital. There are real savings to be made upfront in annual payments if you are willing to take on an excess or shortfall.”
  • Prioritise your needs: This will vary depending on your age and health status. It is important to have access to what you need. Decide if you want treatment in a public or private hospital. Depending on where you are living, you need to make sure the hospitals you need access to are listed on your policy. Laura says: “Most plans cover all hospitals but there are certain exclusions, so make sure your nearest hospitals are covered in the plan you select.” If you have a pre-existing health issue and you are already being treated for something, make sure the policy covers this treatment.
  • Avoid a break in your policy: When you take out health insurance for the first time, or it has been more than 13 weeks since you last held private health insurance, you may have to serve waiting periods before you are fully covered. However, accidents and injuries will be covered immediately. Laura explains: “Once you serve these waiting periods you will not have to serve them again if you switch to another insurer, as long as you haven’t had a break in cover of more than 13 weeks.”
  • Pick a plan based on individual needs: If you are looking for health insurance for a family, everyone can be on an individual plan. You should consider whether or not [if you have children], they need to be on the same plan as you. “You shouldn’t be buying the same level of plans for children as you have yourself,” Laura advises. “The tool indicator lists the relevant child prices. Once your child turns 18, their rate changes from child to young adult. Different plans will offer better value on young adult rates compared to others.”
  • Avail of discounted offers: Group discounts are available of up to 10% off regular premium prices. You can often access a discount through professional organisations, credit unions or your employer. These group discounts can come from different sources, including community groups and trade unions. It is worth looking into.
  • Read more

    It’s time to make the most out of our PRSI

    Tax facts to help save you money in the new year