Sinead Ryan on the 'alarm bell' for switching health insurance

Two-thirds of private health insurance policies are renewed this time of year
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

14.04 15 Nov 2021

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Sinead Ryan on the 'alarm bell...

Sinead Ryan on the 'alarm bell' for switching health insurance

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

14.04 15 Nov 2021

Share this article

Health insurance premiums are set to get more expensive, but a certain level should be setting off 'alarm bells' for people.

That's according to consumer journalist and The Home Show presenter, Sinead Ryan.

She says around two-thirds of private health insurance policies are renewed in the fourth quarter of the year.


And she told Lunchtime Live now is the time to look at your policy carefully.

"An awful lot of people now will have received their renewal notices, or are about to, and will be wondering what they should do with that.

"On average, premiums will go up only by about 5%.

"When I say it's an average - this is really important - there's only three providers out there: Irish Life Health, Laya and VHI.

"But there are hundreds and hundreds of policies and policy types.

"And a lot of the time, those companies want to phase out plans - older legacy plans - but if anybody's still renewing them, they have to hang on to them.

"So what they do is price them up, and a stubborn number of people still renew even at the higher and higher price."

Sinead says if an increase is over 10%, it's time to shop around.

"If it's more than 10%, that is your alarm bell to go off shopping for something else.

"There's only three providers, so it's not like you have to ring around 10 different companies.

"It's very, very straight forward to do".

'No loyalty in this market'

But she says a lot of older people might be actually renewing for 30% or 40% more, and are less likely to move.

"They like the company they're with, they're used to them, they think there's some kind of loyalty bonus maybe in staying with them.

"And there's no loyalty in this market at all: the only loyalty is 'Have you paid your premium this year?' - that's it.

"There's no no-claims bonus or discounts or anything like that for hanging on to the plan you have.

"And then other people will be able to get reductions, because they're looking around and seeing what's available."

But she says comparing price plans by calling the other providers is not complicated.

"If you say 'I have this plan '1234' with this company, what can you offer me for the same money?'

"Is it better? It is the same? Is it worse? And ask them".

'Quirk in insurance law'

And she says the regulator website, Health Insurance Authority (HIA), also compares several plans across different sectors - and there is a potential loophole here.

"Big companies that have 1,000 staff, they design a special real good value plan for - they're called corporate plans.

"A quirk in insurance law means that they have to be available for everybody in the market place.

"You won't recognise them, they'll be called funny names... but if you go looking for these corporate plans, actually they can provide fabulous value for the premium.

"Usually there'll be a few extra benefits in it, or it'll be a discounted premium because the company has managed to sell it in to a big company.

"Don't be put off by it - go looking for those, you are allowed buy it".

Main image: A man filling out a health insurance form in January 2020. Picture by: Dmitriy Shironosov / Alamy Stock Photo

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