Video: Navigating the Private Health Insurance Market in Ireland

Trayc Keevans 08.08.2013

We are now entering into an important period of renewals (early August and end of year depending on your plan) for company health insurance schemes and many individuals may wish to pause and consider all of the options before hitting renew on an existing scheme.  

On Wednesday 31st July, Patrick Brennan, Director of Irish Health Insurance delivered a presentation entitled Navigating the Private Health Insurance Market in Ireland to 20+ attendees. The briefing aimed to equip private health insurance holders with the knowledge to critically evaluate their existing plan and navigate the complex landscape of the priviate medical insurance market while ensuring your employer is getting the best value for your scheme. 

Trayc Keevans, Senior Relationship Manager Inward Investment, at Morgan McKinley, interviewed Patrick Brennan following his breakfast briefing at Morgan McKinley offices.

How does the health insurance currently operate in Ireland?

Sure. I suppose it's unlike a lot of other country health insurance schemes. Effectively the way it works is it's a community-rated market rather than a risk-rated market which means that rather than risking you based on your age, health status or profile there is a set price for each plan on the market and the risk is shared between young and old. That's underpinned by a risk equalisation scheme which captures some of those funds and redistributes the amount of insurance to compensate all the people and insures the cost of all the people.

The issue however that arises when accessing them is that there is no unanimity on how well the risk equalisation scheme is working. So, effectively in the absence of robust risk equalisation scheme insurers are taking matters into their own hands to some degree to maintain a commercial edge and remain competitive. Quite often the consumer can get lost in the middle of this.

For people out there who have just received their renewal letter as part of their company insurance plan, what do they need to consider now that they are approaching renewal dates for their existing plan?

The first thing is what you need to consider, to some degree, is dictated by when was the last time you had a review and in my opinion you need to look at this every year. Obviously a lesser degree if it's been renewed or looked at last year. You're in the realm of damage limitation and that stage for premium increases but certainly if you're talking about three, four or five years without reviewing it there can be substantial savings. Not unlike the mobile phones market or certain telecommunications.

It's a market that's reinvented itself to some degree to what it's offering and the price it's offering these product ranges at. So therefore older plans, while they still remain on the market, very often have been subsidised by clones. Same plans have been reproduced at different premiums so therefore you can very often, with the right navigation, find almost exactly what you have at a premium that brings savings.

What are the typical savings? Give examples of savings you've encountered and what are the basis of those savings?

A way of identifying some savings, again probably fitting in with your last question, "what should companies be looking out for?" The market has moved towards excesses for the patient. The likes of private hospitals, if utlilised, would require the the patient or the employee to pay an upfront excess of usually marginal fees of around €50 - €125 prior to care. That alone, believe it or not, can yield savings of 20% - 40% depending on the plan. That's one thing to look at certainly. 

The other thing is small adjustments on outpatient entitlements such as money back or again it might be something as simple as the number of visits you're entitled to.

What are the benefits that a company would derive from using an independent health advisor like Irish Health as opposed to doing it themselves?

It's having the expertise to navigate that market. We all hire professionals in different walks of life to do things when we simply don't have the time, the knowledge or the will to carry on ourselves and this is one of those financial problems that it's getting harder and harder to decipher.

So what do we do? We try and start from a needs analysis point of view. We say, "what is it you want your insurance to do for you and your staff?" We then look at what you have and see how well that fits in with it, whether it's under what you need or whether it's superfluous to what you need. We then identify which packages are available and indeed can tailor them, to some degree, to meet those needs. By doing this then you're confident we can tick the boxes in terms of healthcare you should be providing your staff and you can also be confident you've found that, at the best available price on the market at the time. 

Stakeholders such as your employees, you take them through that process in terms of educating them to the point where we take the worry out of any change that's involved. The headache that's involved in the paperwork, we do it all. That's what an advisor can bring.

Trayc Keevans's picture
Global FDI Director
tkeevans@morganmckinley.ie