We are now in the middle of the busiest renewal period for private health insurance.  Almost 45% of all members or 900,000 people will be receiving their renewal notices between and the end of March.  As well as reviewing their cover to find the best deals, it’s important that you education your customers as to their exact entitlements.  In other words, make sure that they claim all refunds possible and don’t fall into the many pitfalls associated with this type of insurance.

Below are 5 new year resolutions that you should be communicating to all customers regarding their health insurance cover.

  1. Never Automatically Renew Your Health Insurance Again
    You need to think of health cover just as you would car and home insurance – shop around at each renewal for the best deals. With nearly 340 plans on the market and new offers and special discounts coming on-stream almost monthly, there are packages to suit all budgets and requirements.
    Remember, if you’re on the same plan for 2 years or more or if you have all the family on the same level of cover, then you’re likely to be over-paying.  Also, you get full credit for time served with other health insurers, so if you switch to an equivalent plan, you don’t have to re-serve those waiting periods.
  2. Know Your Rights in Public Hospitals
    We are all entitled to access treatment through our public healthcare system. However, unless you have a medical card, you will be charged €100 in A&E or €75 per night to a maximum of €750 per year if you are admitted to any public hospital.  If you have health insurance, you will be asked for your membership details so the hospital can claim this charge from your insurer.
    Increasingly, private health insurance members accessing public hospital services as public patients are being asked to sign forms waiving their rights to be treated as public patients.  By doing so, you will still receive the same treatment but your insurer may be charged €813 for every night you’re either on a trolley or in a public bed.  Next time you’re asked this question, tell the hospital you’d be delighted to sign the form but only when they come back to you with a semi-private or private room.  In fact, if your accommodation preference is really important to you and you have health insurance, see if you can get your treatment in your nearest private hospital as this is the only setting now where you’re guaranteed to get your semi-private room (up to 5 beds).
  3. Claim for all your Routine Medical Expenses
    Too many members fail to make an annual claim to their health insurer to claim their refunds on routine day-to-day expenses. For those insured on the multitude of corporate plans now on the market, they are usually entitled to a 50% refund on a whole range of routine expenses such as GP, Physiotherapy, Routine Dental, Consultants’ fees and many more.  You need to submit your claim to the health insurer within 3 months of your renewal date and they will issue a refund to you for your entitlement.  If you have forgotten to collect your receipts, simply contact your practitioners who’ll be happy to issue you with a statement of visits.
  4. Claim all your Tax Reliefs
    If you are lucky enough to have your health insurance paid by your employer, make sure that you claim your tax relief each year. Many members mistakenly believe that their employer sorts their tax relief as well as their benefit-in-kind (BIK) charges which is not the case.  You are entitled to go back up to 4 years which could be a welcome bonus for the start of the year.
    Similarly, many people fail to make a tax return in relation to the cost of their routine medical expenses.  For example, if you have a corporate plan with day-to-day cover, then you should claim tax relief on that portion of your claim that was not fully covered by your health insurer.  You can also include additional expenses such as shortfalls on hospital claims or policy excesses as well.
    If your health plan does not include any day-to-day cover, then you’re unlikely to receive any rebate from the health insurer and you should therefore be submitting an annual claim to the Revenue Commissioners to claim all relief possible.  Remember, you can also go back 4 years with these claims and any relief, however small is better in your pocket than theirs.
  5. Take out Health Insurance before 1st May 15 to Avoid Age Loadings
    The new Lifetime Community Rating legislation comes into effect from 1st May 2015. For anyone aged 35 or older who joins health insurance after this date, they will be charged a permanent age loading of 2% per year for every year from 35 onwards.  For example, a 39 year old joining will be charged an additional 10% per year whereas a 44 year old will be hit for an additional 20%.  For those already insured or those who join prior to the 30th April next, they will not be affected by these changes.For those not interested in full health insurance cover but who’d like to be covered for routine medical expenses, they should consider taking out a health cash plan.  For example, HSF Health Plan have a range of cash plans designed to cover the full cost of all your routine medical expenses such as Dental, Optical, GP, and Consultants’ fees.   They also give you cash allowances for every night spent in hospital which usually covers the cost of public hospital accommodation at €75 per night.