Comparing Health Insurance in Ireland

There are just three private  health insurance providers in Ireland – VHI , Irish Life Health  and Laya Health Comparing Health Insurance in Ireland can be a complicated task. The health insurance market in Ireland is estimated to be worth over €2 billion in premiums each year. At the end of 2017 it was estimated that 43% of the population of Ireland had Private Health Insurance cover.

There seems to be strong loyalty or maybe just apathy about switching Health Insurance provider. The the average number of years policyholders have been with  their current Health Insurance  provider is 14 years. Only 22% of people have ever changed insurance provider. Only 20% of people with health insurance said they regularly shopped around for lower prices and/or better cover.

The average cost of a private health insurance  policy in Ireland- according to a 2017 survey by the Health Insurance Authority – was  €1858 a year.  Over 35% were paying more than €2000 a year .  (These could be policies for a whole family)  Interestingly – 38% said they had never made a claim on their health insurance policy.

The Health Insurance Authority has a price comparison  facility for Private Health Insurance in Ireland.

An initial search on the  HIA comparison site  (Jan 2018) –  for cover providing a private room in a private hospital showed up 68 different health insurance price plans available for a single adult.

Prices ranged from from the cheapest at €852 per adult per year to the most expensive at €4778 per adult per year. The amount of different plans and variations in levels of cover provided is mind boggling – it must be easy for people to get confused by all the options available.

The lowest priced  plan shown was €852 for the  “Control 600 Connect” from Laya Insurance. This Laya policy has a €600 excess on each inpatient claim . Outpatient consultant visits get €40 each and GP visits €15 each

At the other end of the scale is the €4778 a year “Healthcare Manager “from Laya.  This policy has a €125 excess .   Outpatient consultant visits  and GP visits get 50% each.

Both policies cover the Blackrock Clinic, the Mater Private and the Beacon Hospital.
There are several other minor differences – with the policies , with the cheaper option providing better cover in certain areas.  The €600 excess is the main difference. But with an annual premium price difference of  over €3500 – it looks like the cheaper policy is probably better value – even if you have to claim on it 5 times in one year.

The most expensive policy we could find was the Laya Health Manager Gold – providing cover with no excess for private roms in high tech hospitals. Cost  €7964 a year.

Cheapest Price :  A single adult won’t get health cover for less than €474  – this is the price charged by VHI for their Start Plan .  For this you get inpatient cover as a private Patient in a multi-occupancy (which may include semi-private) room in a public hospital and day case.

The HIA comparison tool shows just how complicated the health insurance market is in Ireland. There is a  massive amount of different types of cover available – no two insurance  plans are exactly the same – so making an accurate  price comparison is difficult. There may be just slight differences between some plans – and unless you know what health problems you are going to get you don’t really know which one is going to best for you. The HIA comparison make it easier than trawling through the providers prices   – but it is still not a simple task.

Health insurance in Ireland must be an insurance brokers dream – they can overwhelm clients with the details and make them  so confused that they will probably accept whatever the broker says is the best policy.
It is probably a safe bet that most people in Ireland don’t have a clue exactly what their health insurance covers them for.

One option – the cheapest one – is not to buy private health insurance at all. Some people seem to think they will be bankrupt if they ever need hospital treatment without medical insurance – but the most it can ever cost you is €750 in a year.

If you are admitted to hospital in Ireland for any reason – without health insurance or a medical card – the charge for in-patient/day services is €75 per day up to a maximum of €750 in  any 12 consecutive months. All the treatment you recieve in hospital, all procedures,scans,surgery etc and all follow up out-patient treatment is free of any further charge.

Long Stay patients are charged less: (Long stay = over 30 days)

a) Those receiving in-patient services where nursing care is provided on a 24 hour basis the maximum weekly charge  will be €153.25, or their weekly income less €44.70, whichever is the lesser.
b)   those receiving in-patient services where nursing care is not provided on a 24 hour basis – the maximum weekly charge will be the lesser of €114.95, or the person’s weekly income less €70.25, or 60% of the persons weekly income

Without health insurance , in some cases you may well have to wait a good bit longer to be treated  in the first place .

See More  interesting figures on health insurance in Ireland

In Dec 2015 there was 49 per cent of the total  population coverd by private health insurance.
In comparison – in the  UK , figures from the  Association of British Insurers at the end of 2015, showed that there were around 4 million  private medical cover policies – this  is just 10% of the UK population.
Maybe – if the large amount of money (about €2 billion a year)  taken in by insurance companies in Ireland was instead taken in direct taxation and put into our hospital system – then people might not feel the need to get private health insurance.



5 thoughts on “Comparing Health Insurance in Ireland

  1. I am aged 71 and my wife 73. We are thinking of retiring to Ireland. Will we be able to get private medical insurance cover in Ireland. Neither of has any major on-going medical issues.

  2. Hi Doc:

    Generally, there is no age restriction on taking out Health Insurance for the first time, Company’s have to quote you, based on Community Rating.

    However, the following is a real restriction based on age bands under-55, 55-65, over-65:

    Do I have to serve a waiting period when I take out health insurance for the first time?

    If you are taking out health insurance for the first time or have allowed your cover to lapse for 13 weeks or more, you will be covered for accident and injury claims immediately.

    However an insurer may apply a waiting period to all other claims.

    The waiting periods that an insurer may apply in these circumstances are as follows:

    26 weeks in respect of a person who is under the age of 55 years.

    52 weeks in respect of a person who is of or over the age of 55 years and under the age of 65 years.

    104 weeks in respect of a person who is 65 years and over.

  3. Dear Dr. Moola,

    The above waiting periods apply to new conditions. You should also take note of the pre-existing condition waiting periods associated with taking out health insurance in Ireland for the first time.
    For those over 60 a 10 year waiting period applies to pre-existing conditions. These are defined as any condition which can be proven to exist prior to taking out health insurance, regardless of whether the person was aware of this condition or had presented with symptoms prior to the commencement of the policy.

  4. Hi again Doc:

    The info posted in my post is contained in this pdf download, from the HIA web-site:

    Page 4 contains the waiting period based on age information.

    Do I have to serve a waiting period when I take out health insurance for the first time?

    Ans. on P4, (really page 6 of PDF)


    As S.Goggins has said, those waiting periods apply to new conditions.

    Info regarding pre-existing conditions and age-related waiting periods also in that Doc, also on Page 4.

    I have a medical condition. Do I have to serve additional waiting periods before I am covered for this?

    If you are taking out health insurance for the first time and have a pre-existing condition e.g. diabetes, the health insurer can impose a waiting period in respect of cover for treatment for this condition. The maximum waiting periods that the health insurer may impose in this case are as follows:
    • 5 years, for a person who is under the age of 55 years.
    • 7 years, for a person who is of or over the age of 55 years and under the age of 60 years.
    • 10 years for a person who is 60 years or over.

    These waiting periods may apply from the date of policy commencement. It should be noted that whether or not a
    condition existed at the time that an insured person began serving a waiting period is decided on the basis of medical advice. Whether or not the insured person was aware that they had the condition at the time that they started serving the waiting period may be considered not to be relevant by the insurer. If this matter is important to you, you should consider
    clarifying it with your insurer.

    So, watch out for possible conditions which you may not consider to be “major on-going issues”.

  5. I have been in a Health Insurance Scheme for over 20 years and am now over 60. If I change from my present Health Insurance company to another, is there a waiting period?
    Thank you

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