Inertia in the health insurance market means many of us are overpaying for our cover
The health insurance market is expanding - there has been another rise in the numbers taking out a plan, insurers are cutting prices and there are hundreds of options to choose from.
All of this is good and should mean consumers benefit. But the fact is that many people are still overpaying for their cover. And this is particularly the case with older people.
Figures from the regulator, the Health Insurance Authority (HIA), show that an extra 31,000 people took out health insurance last year.
Close to 2.2 million people now have health insurance cover. The percentage of the population with inpatient health insurance plans stood at 45.3pc at end of March, an increase of 0.2pc on March 2017.
The numbers with health cover are down from the peak reached in December 2008, when 2.3 million people were insured. Some 110,000 fewer people have private medical insurance now.
But it is a good sign that more people are taking out cover.
However, the bad news is that less than one in four health insurance customers have ever switched.
Dermot Goode, of TotalHealthCover.ie, said this meant most people are losing out. This is because people who stick with the same plans, from the same insurer, are most likely paying inflated prices.
In the past few months VHI, Laya and Irish Life have cut the cost of a number of their premiums. This means, Goode said, it was more important than ever to seek out better value when it is time to renew.
He said the vast majority of those who are over-paying are over 60 years of age, with fear of change and misguided loyalty to one insurer costing them.
People over the age of 60 are paying between 30cp and 50pc more than other age groups. Older people are more likely to be unaware of the availability of better-value corporate plans. And older members are still more likely to be insured on plans that have been on the market for the past 10 to 20 years.
There is still huge loyalty to health insurers, particularly among the older generation.
Goode said the younger-to-middle age cohort of policyholders is more savvy when it comes to shopping around.
When asked about switching their plan, the majority of older members are unaware that the legislation protects them fully in terms of not having to re-serve waiting periods when switching to a new insurer and continuity of cover for equivalent benefits.
Many also mistakenly believe that age loadings may apply if they switch.
Source: Irish Independent