Health insurance from €9 a week – but is it any good?

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Laya Healthcare on Tuesday launched what it claims is Ireland's lowest-priced individual hospital scheme costing just under €9 a week, as the price war among health insurers to attract young healthy customers ahead of a regulatory change heats up.

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Assure Vitality is aimed primarily at attracting younger first-time buyers of health insurance, and the cost of insuring a family of two adults and two children on the Assure Vitality scheme starts from € 1,152 a year (€430 per adult, €146 per child).

The policy offers no cover for private or high-tech hospitals, but will cover patients for out-patient surgical procedures and for day-case and semi-private accommodation in public hospitals.

While members will get nothing back on GP fees, the policy does cover consultant visits (€40/visit); A&E (€20/visit) and radiologist fees (€25/visit) above an annual excess of €150 back (€450 per family, and members will have access to its "CareOnCall" service, which includes telephone access to a registered GP, nurse and physio.

Health insurance broker Dermot Goode of Total Health Cover says it’s a “very good plan” to get on the first step of the ladder or for those who can’t afford a more comprehensive policy.
"For anyone who's been struggling to pay insurance it's a cheap affordable plan and is an excellent plan at that price," he says, but warns that anyone who wants to get, as he calls it, "proper health insurance" will need a plan that covers both public and private hospitals and will not get this for anything close to €430 a year.

The launch of the product comes ahead of the introduction of Lifetime Community Rating, and marks one of the first efforts by health insurers to try and attract younger people into insurance plans before the deadline of April 30th. The new regime means that if you are over 34 after 30th April 2015, when you take out healthcare insurance, you may have to pay extra for your cover. According to Laya, this works out at an extra 2 per cent loading on to your premium for each year above 34, up to a maximum of 70 per cent. Indeed if you’re 37 by the time you take out health insurance, you'll pay 6 per cent (3 years x 2%) extra for your cover, while if you’re 54, the loading will jump to 40 per cent (20 years x 2%) extra.

Goode expects the price war to heat up over the coming weeks, as other insurers bring their own products to market to capture a market which he estimates could be as large as 50,000.
As such, he says those thinking about getting health insurance should take their time.

“What I would say is you don’t have to jump just yet - these plans will be on the market all during March and April - take your time and wait to see what everyone’s plans are and then buy”.

Earlier this week Vhi launched similar plans, VHI Start Plan and Start Plan 250, which will cost from € 449 per adult a year, but as well as excluding private hospitals, these policies also have a restrictionon some of the larger public hospitals.