Comparing Health Insurance in Ireland

Comparing Health Insurance prices 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 2022 it was estimated that 48% of the population of Ireland had Private Health Insurance cover.

There are just three private health insurance providers in Ireland – VHI , Irish Life Health and Laya Health.

There seems to be strong loyalty or maybe just apathy about switching Health Insurance providers.
Figures from 2019 showed that the average number of years policyholders had been with their current Health Insurance provider was 14 years.
Only 39% of people had ever changed insurance provider

The average cost of an adult private health insurance policy in Ireland in 2022 – was  €1412 a year.  ( Health Insurance Authority)

In a survey in 2017 – 38% of people with health insurance said they had never made a claim on their health insurance policy.

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

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.

A  search on the  HIA comparison site  (January 2024) –  for cover providing a private room in a private hospital showed up 79 different health insurance price plans available for a single adult.

Prices ranged from the cheapest at €1194 per adult per year to the most expensive at €5738 per adult per year.

The lowest-priced plan shown was €1055 for the  “Control 600 Connect” from Laya Insurance. (up from €1055 in 2023). This Laya policy has a €600 excess on each inpatient claim .

Outpatient consultant visits get €40 each and GP visits €20 each, A&E €20

At the other end of the scale is the €5738 a year “Health Manager “from Laya.  This policy has a €125 or €50 excess depending on the hospital used .   Outpatient consultant visits and GP visits get 50% to 75% each. A&E max €50. (Increased from €5178 in 2023)

Both policies cover cardiac procedures at the Blackrock Clinic, the Mater Private and the Beacon Hospital.

On both policies – there is no excess on 5 orthopaedic procedures (hip and knee replacement) in 12 private hospitals.

There are several other minor differences – with the policies, with the more expensive option providing better cover in certain areas.  The €600 excess is the main difference. But with an annual premium price difference of over €4000 – it seems to us that the cheaper policy is probably better value – even if you have to claim on it 5 times in one year.

The most expensive health insurance policy we could find for a single adult was the Laya Health Manager Gold – providing cover with no excess for private rooms in high-tech hospitals.

This was priced at €9509 a year in Jan 2024 (including tax relief at source).

Even this expensive cover only pays for 50% of Consultant outpatient fees and GP fees.

Cheapest Health Insurance in Ireland

It looks like a single adult won’t get health cover for less than €500 a year. Tthis was the price given in Jan 2024 by VHI for their PublicPlus Care Plan .
For this,
you get inpatient cover as a private Patient in a multi-occupancy room (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 coverage available – no two insurance plans are exactly the same – so making an accurate price comparison is very 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 know which one is going to be best for you. The HIA comparison makes it easier than trawling through the provider’s prices   – but it is still not a simple task.

It is probably a safe bet that most people in Ireland don’t have a clue exactly what their health insurance covers them for.

Why Bother with Health Insurance ?

One optionthe 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 charge for staying in a public hospital overnight was abolished in April 2023)

If you are admitted to a hospital in Ireland for any reason – without health insurance or a medical card – there is no longer any charge for in-patient/day services.

All the treatment you receive in the hospital, all procedures, scans, surgery etc and all follow-up outpatient treatment is free of any further charge.

However – without health insurance, in some non-urgent cases you may well have to wait a bit longer to be treated in the first place .

The Future :

The Government’s Sláintecare vision is to “achieve a universal single-tier health and social care system where everyone has equal access to services based on need, and not ability to pay.” .

When (if) this is eventually put in place it will hopefully remove private care from public hospitals, leading to an expansion of the public system’s ability to provide public care.  Private insurance will no longer mean faster access to healthcare in the public sector,  it will be limited to covering private care in private hospitals.

See More  interesting figures on health insurance in Ireland

Maybe – if the large amount of money (about €2 billion a year)  taken in by insurance companies in Ireland was instead taken in taxation and put into the hospital system – then people might not feel the need to get private health insurance.

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