5 health insurance myths debunked
Daragh Cassidy
Head Writer

There are still many myths and misunderstandings about the Irish health care system. In this guide, we debunk five of the most common myths out there.

Ireland's public and private health care systems are the subject of constant discussion and debate, but there are still many myths and misunderstandings about how the system really works.

In this health insurance guide, we debunk five of the most common myths out there so you can make an informed decision about you and your family's health care.

1. Public health care is free and fair

In recent years the Government has made efforts to reduce the cost of public health care. 

Free GP care has been expanded and the €80 a day fee for an overnight stay in a public hospital has been abolished. 

However charges remain. 

If you attend the outpatient department of A&E without a doctor's referral you're looking at a €100 fee unless you have a medical card. And anyone between the age of 8 and 69 will have to pay for any GP visit unless they have a medical or GP card or meet strict income requirements.

There is also often a gap of several years in the availability of new cancer drugs – which are often incredibly expensive but highly sought after – between public and private patients. This means as a public patient you may have poorer treatment options and a poorer outcome compared to someone with private health insurance. 

2. You have to re-serve waiting periods when switching policies

When taking out a private health insurance policy for the first time, you have to serve what are known as ‘waiting periods’. These are designated periods of time within which you can’t claim for certain illnesses after your policy commences.

For example, if you develop a new medical condition within the first six months of your first policy, you won’t be able to make a claim against the cost of treatment. Once the six months have elapsed, however, you’ll be free to claim the cost of expenses for new conditions covered under your policy.

When it comes to pre-existing conditions, the waiting periods can be as long as five years with some providers. Before getting a procedure done for a pre-existing condition make sure to check if you are covered by your new policy, if you don't then you may be left with a hefty hospital bill after undergoing treatment, as you can't make a claim during this period.

Some people don’t switch policies out of fear that they’ll have to re-serve these waiting periods with their new insurer. This is not the case, so long as there hasn't been a break of more than 13 weeks in cover.

If you have served your waiting periods with one provider and subsequently take out a policy with a new provider, all credit from your previous policy will be carried across. 

3. Full disclosure will mean higher premiums

When taking out private health cover, many people worry that they will be hit with higher premiums if they disclose the whole truth about their medical condition and history. This isn’t the case!

In Ireland, there are no loadings with health insurance based on your health status, meaning that there are no penalties applied for multiple previous claims. (However under 'community rating' if you take out health insurance for the first time after the age of 34 there will be a loading based on your age). 

By disclosing all information about your health and history, you will be in the best possible position to get the right plan for you and your requirements. After all, there are over 300 different health insurance plans out there, so there's a good chance you'll end up on an unsuitable policy if you don’t share openly.

4. Corporate plans aren’t available to everyone

Corporate plans are marketed towards certain companies or professions and these plans are often the best value options on the Irish market.

But many Irish consumers don’t realise that these plans are actually available to everyone, even if you're not a member of the group or an employee of the company it's being marketed towards. So if you want to join Google's corporate health insurance plan or maybe the one offered to AIB employees, you can! 

By law, a health insurer must sell you the plan you request.

To find out which plan, corporate or otherwise, is best for you, it’s vital to compare the entire market.

5. Customers can’t switch policies regularly 

Just like any other contract, private health insurance contracts must be honoured. But the good news is that they are only a year long, meaning there's nothing to stop you switching every year if you want to. 

What’s more, some private health insurance providers now allow members to change their policy mid-contract.

It’s useful to think about your health insurance the way you do your car insurance – shop around every year for the best deal out there!

The truth is out there

Ireland's health insurance system can be challenging enough to understand, even without the many myths that still exist. But by knowing the truth about the cost of the public system, waiting periods and corporate plans, you are in a good position to make the right decision about health insurance for you and your family.

Don't believe the myths, the truth is out there!

Compare health insurance 

The Health Insurance Authority offers a free and comprehensive comparison tool to help consumers compare health insurance policies.   

However health insurance is a very complex product. The right plan for you will depend on many different factors. And it can also be quite difficult for the average person to understand exactly what’s covered with every policy. If you’re not careful it’s very easy to over pay, or equally as worse, under pay and not be covered for the treatment you need.     

Treatments, consultant cover, the excess, and outpatient benefits can all differ wildly between plans. And health insurance plans are constantly being updated by insurers too.     

What’s more, getting the right info on corporate plans, which often offer the best value and which are legally open to everyone, can sometimes be tough.

There are independent health insurance experts who, for a small fee, can conduct an over-the-phone consultation with you and recommend an appropriate plan.  

Unfortunately us Irish don’t like paying for financial advice. But for a relatively small fee of €100 or €150, say, you could end up saving well over €300 or €400 a year on your health insurance. And you’ll get a plan that’s tailored to your own specific needs. So don't be afraid to check out these services too. 

Take a look at our other insurance guides

If you’re looking for more insurance information, we have a range of guides that you may find helpful. Consider taking a look at the following:

You can stay up to date with all of the latest insurance news and top saving tips with our blogs and guides.