“Fear of change is costing older people a fortune when it comes to health insurance.”
So says health expert Dermot Goode and he is working to spread his message far and wide.
“It’s a real issue now that so many older members, particularly long-term loyal policyholders, continue to pay more than they should.
"People are staying on the same plan for too long. When it comes to health insurance, people should review their plan every year.
“As people get older, they are more fearful of change. They are worried and they mistakenly believe they could be charged age loadings,” he said.
But the increased cost of cover, combined with the fact that most retired people are on a fixed income mean that they are under increasing financial pressure.
“They don’t want to change, they like the security. However, they don’t have it any more,” he added.
Analysis by Totalhealthcover.ie has revealed that older people invariably pay more than any other age group — often between 30-50% more — and older people are more likely to be unaware of corporate plans available.
When asked about changing, the majority of older members are unaware that the legislation protects them fully in terms of not having to re-serve waiting periods and continuity of cover for equivalent benefits.
Mr Goode acknowledges that part of this inertia stems from a reluctance by some to do business online.
A suggestion to use the Health Insurance Authority’s website is of little use to someone in their 70s in a rural area who may not have internet access at home.
But Mr Goode believes a preference for the phone could be useful.
“I recommend calling insurers, it means the call will be recorded and linked to your account.
"The company knows this and, if you ask the right questions, will do the work to find the right plan for you.
“Ask them about cheaper plans with similar benefits to your current one and then ask them to explain exactly the differences in cover.
"Ask them are there corporate plans with similar levels of cover that would be more suitable for your needs.
"It doesn’t matter what a plan is called, they are all available to everyone,” said Mr Goode
Ideally customers should have an idea of what plan they might want.
If you are not confident researching or asking questions yourself, get a trusted family member or friend to help.
Or else consider professional advice, just make sure you speak to someone who specialises in health cover and deals with all insurers, not just one.
The other big problem is a total misunderstanding of how insurers treat existing conditions and what they can ask.
“Older members are often afraid to switch as they are under the misconception that they will have to re-serve all their waiting periods again, or that existing conditions will not be covered, which is simply not the case.
"All insurers are required by law to give you full credit for time served with previous providers.
"Once there is no break in your cover and you change to an equivalent plan, you will be on cover immediately with the new provider assuming you’ve served all your waiting periods already.
“In fact, the only questions your new insurer will put to you are; what plan are you currently insured on and how long have you been insured on that plan.
"You won’t be asked to complete any medical questionnaire or for any details regarding pending medical treatment,” said he said.
People on group schemes are another cohort Mr Goode is warning to review their cover: “A lot of people think ‘well, I’m in a group scheme so I must be on a corporate plan’, be it through a credit union or retirement scheme.
Those schemes are worthless, they make no difference whatsoever. The important thing is, are you on a corporate plan?
“Those old group schemes make no advantage to you now. You are sometimes better off paying it yourself and getting on a corporate plan.”
The bottom line when it comes to health insurance?
“Anyone who is paying more than €1500 per adult, they should look at their cover. As should anyone who hasn’t reviewed their policy in the last two years.”
DEAL OF THE WEEK
If you fancy taking to the water this summer, you can do it in a budget thanks to Lidl’s latest Special Buy.
On Thursday, a two-person inflatable kayak with detachable front and rear seat goes on sale for a budget-friendly €49.99.
The kayak can hold two adults (rated load capacity: 160kg) and complies with ISO 6185-1, Category III, Type B.
It comes with an aluminium double paddle with click-in system, which can also be used as a canoe paddle, and a splash-proof storage bag with hook and loop fastener for valuables and small accessories.
It is suitable for use in protected offshore waters, small bays, on small lakes, small rivers and canals — in protected shore areas up to 300m.
For €7.99, you can add in a 170W Electric Air Pump, which easily inflates or deflates at the push of a button.
Both go on sale on Thursday, June 22.