Thinking of buying health insurance for the first time? There’s lots to consider, as different plans offer varying cover and benefits. Throw in some legal jargon and it can certainly be confusing! However, as you’ll learn below, the sooner you make the purchase, the better. Here are some useful areas of information…
“Traditionally, health insurance is seen as a safety net in the case of serious illness,” explains Michael Craig of Irish Life Health. “Today however, it’s about more than just covering the ‘what ifs’. People are turning to private health insurance to avoid issues with public hospitals and get faster access to experts in private hospitals and clinics.” Buying it for the first time can be a daunting process though, and chances are, you don’t know where to start. Read on for some handy tips.
Lifetime Community Rating
Lifetime Community Rating rule is one of the main reasons it makes sense to get your insurance sorted sooner rather than later. “In countries like Ireland that are community rated, health insurers must charge everyone the same premium for a plan, no matter what age they are,” says Michael. “In principle, it’s a good thing, as it means you can’t be discriminated against because you’re older or sick.” The Lifetime Community Rating loadings were introduced by the government to help encourage younger people to purchase health insurance. This is because they tend to claim less than older people. Unfortunately, if you’ve waited until you’re 35, the government enforces a 2% levy for every year after that. That levy is kept in place for the first 10 years of payment.
Useful Information at HIA
If you’re unsure where to start when purchasing health insurance, it’s worth visiting the HIA website. They’re the statutory regulator of the private health insurance market in Ireland, and offer impartial advice on what the different insurance providers offer. They also answer a lot of the typical questions people have at that important initial stage.
Consider your Lifestyle
Increasingly, health insurance is being used, not just to cover the eventualities of illness, but in a proactive way. For example, many plans cover gym membership, dietician consultations and even counselling, allowing you to live a healthier lifestyle and therefore guard against illness. “It’s important to think about your lifestyle and what you need from your health insurance,” says Michael. “It helps the health insurer/us present you with the right plan and allows you to be confident in your decision.”
Pick up the Phone
If you’re still unsure, you can chat to someone who knows their stuff. “Rumours around things like waiting periods or special conditions take on a life of their own, and typically add to confusion”, says Michael. “So, where possible, I always advise people to pick up the phone to their insurer, ask questions and know the facts for themselves.” Jot down a list of questions ahead of the call, and take notes so you don’t forget any detail.
Go Easy on Yourself
It’s ok to not be 100% sure of what you need. “Insurance is meant to cover a whole host of eventualities,” says Michael. “Unless you have a condition or a family history of medical issues, you’re unlikely to be thinking about specific needs, and that’s ok. As an insurer, it’s our job to help you navigate the information and come away confident with your decision.”