Health insurance, also known as private health insurance, is a form of insurance cover that offers financial protection should you, or a family member included on your policy, fall ill and need hospital or other medical treatment.

Public healthcare is available to all in Ireland, however, if you wish to ‘go private’, or be treated as a private patient, in either a public, private, or high tech hospital you will, realistically, need health insurance. Health insurance can also mean that you have quicker access to treatment by choosing to be treated privately.

private health insurance

What is private health insurance?

Health insurance will cover hospital accommodation and associated consultants and other fees, as well as day patient, outpatient, and sometimes every day medical expenses also.

In Ireland, there are public, private, and high tech hospitals and you may see other healthcare professionals eg. consultants and specialists publicly or privately. You may also, if you choose, be treated privately in a public hospital, although this may change in the future.

The public healthcare system is available to all, but if you wish to be treated privately or stay in a private or high tech hospital to avail of treatment, you will realistically need health insurance.

Who offers private health insurance in Ireland?

Health insurance is provided by three providers in the Irish market:

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What is covered by private health insurance?

There are minimum types of cover that health insurers are obliged to cover. However, many health insurance policies offer many more forms of health insurance cover at different levels.

These include:

  • Inpatient or day patient treatment
  • Hospital outpatient treatment
  • Maternity and fertility benefits
  • Convalescence
  • Psychiatric inpatient treatment and substance abuse treatment
  • Day to day medical expenses
  • Insurer provided benefits
  • Cover Abroad
What is covered by private health insurance

Inpatient or day patient treatment

Hospital accommodation can range from being privately accommodated and treated in a public hospital, to different levels of accommodation in a private hospital to accommodation in a high tech hospital. Hospital accommodation can be a key factor in the price of your health insurance.

If you are an inpatient or day patient, you will be treated privately by your consultant and you are likely to be covered for any tests, diagnostic tests or scans, and surgery or treatment etc. that is carried out, subject to any excess on your policy.

Hospital outpatient treatment

If you require hospital outpatient treatment such as tests, scans or outpatient procedures, your health insurance policy may offer you some level of cover. 

This will be subject to excesses and policy limits and the level and types of cover vary between policies, so check carefully before you choose a policy.

Maternity and fertility benefits

If your health insurance policy includes maternity benefits, you may be treated privately for antenatal appointments and while you are in hospital.

You will be accommodated privately in a public hospital (all maternity hospitals are public in Ireland) and your care will be overseen by your obstetric consultant, depending on the level of cover in your policy. 

Some health insurance policies offer a benefit towards a home birth if this is your choice.

Health insurance policies vary in the level of benefit they offer for fertility treatment so ensure you check what is covered if this is a benefit you may require.

Convalescence

Health insurance may pay a benefit for convalescence following a stay in hospital.

Home nursing for adults and children and home care for some conditions eg.cancer can also be covered by health insurance.

Psychiatric inpatient treatment and substance abuse treatment

Health insurance will provide some cover for psychiatric inpatient treatment and residential substance abuse treatment. Your policy may offer cover for private inpatient psychiatric treatment.

Many health insurers now offer various mental health supports to their members, such as counselling and other wellbeing supports. Some health insurance policies offer cover for outpatient mental health treatment, subject to excesses and outpatient limits.

Day to day medical expenses

Health insurance policies offer varying levels of cover for day to day medical expenses such as consultant, GP, and allied health professional visits, as well as for alternative and complementary treatments. Some policies offer dental and optical benefits.

If you choose generous cover for day to day medical expenses, it may be reflected in your premium so be sure that you are likely to use these benefits before paying for them.

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Insurer provided benefits

Increasingly, health insurers are moving into providing healthcare services such as minor injury clinics and health assessment centres for their members.

Health insurers also offer extras such as access to virtual GP appointments, health screening and health and wellness supports. Some of these benefits can be quite worthwhile such as generous cover for injury clinics and access to virtual GP appointments and counselling, so check what your health insurer provides.

Cover abroad

Health insurers offer different levels of cover for medical emergencies while you are abroad, as well as discounted travel insurance which may provide protection if you have to be treated abroad.

Be aware that many of these benefits have to be reimbursed by your insurer after you have paid for the treatment, so check the fine print before you assume you have cover abroad.

Private health care hospitals and clinics

Private hospitals in Ireland offer access to private care. These include:

  • Bons Secours Group- Cork, Tralee, Limerick, Galway, Dublin.
  • St. John of God Hospital – Dublin.
  • St Vincent’s Private Hospital – Dublin
  • UPMC – Waterford

High tech hospitals offer more specialised care. These include:

  • Mater Private- Dublin, Cork, Limerick.
  • Beacon Hospital- Dublin, Limerick.
  • Blackrock Clinic- Dublin, Limerick, Galway.

Your health insurance also offers cover for being treated privately in a public hospital. Public hospitals are located in all cities and many major towns.

Private health care hospitals and clinics

Choosing the right health insurance policy

In choosing a health insurance policy, you will be guided by a number of factors.

Your budget will, to some extent, guide you in the type of health insurance you can purchase as plans that offer cover for all private and high tech hospitals, as well as offering generous cover for everyday medical expenses can be prohibitively expensive.

You may need to consider what you think you will most likely need, and how important it is to you to be able to access for example high tech hospital care.

Likewise, if you know that you are very likely to need a certain type of care, for example you may need physiotherapy or chiropractic care, then it makes sense to prioritise benefits for this care when purchasing health insurance.

You may need to consider what type of hospital care you require. Bear in mind that most children are treated in public inpatient settings, and if you are in an accident or suddenly very unwell, for example, you are likely to be treated in the nearest public hospital that can provide appropriate care.

However, if you have a strong concern around or preference for private cardiac or cancer treatment for example, maybe due to your family history, then you may wish to purchase a health insurance plan that includes more generous benefits for this care.

The excess is the amount you will pay yourself for medical treatment or care, before your insurance plan will pay out any benefit.

You will save money by choosing a higher excess. However, there are two types of excess that you need to bear in mind.

An inpatient excess will need to be paid every time you are admitted to hospital. Choosing a higher excess may seem like a way to save money but bear in mind if you, or one of your family, develops a chronic condition you may face numerous hospital admissions. Do not choose an excess that you would struggle to afford in such an event.

An outpatient excess is a threshold which you will need to pay yourself for outpatient expenses before you can claim back any benefit. Again, if you set this excess too high, you may face significant healthcare outgoings before you receive any benefit from you health insurance.

There may be aspects of healthcare that you prioritise due to your family history or life stage.

For example, if you are thinking of starting a family, you may look for a policy that has generous benefits for maternity care or for fertility treatment.

If your family is complete, or you are older, you may prioritise cardiac care, or orthopaedic or ophthalmic procedures over maternity benefits.

If your family has a lot of GP and other medical appointments, you may choose a policy that covers day to day medical expenses in order to receive reimbursement for those expenses.

Insurance companies provide a range of healthcare, screening, and supports to their customers directly that are linked to their health insurance membership.

Examples include online or virtual GP consultations, counselling and mental health support, wellness supports such as back care or nutrition support, as well as health screening.

Minor injury clinics, such as VHI 360, can provide health insurance members with healthcare in a timely manner that is linked to their health insurance policy.

If any of these supports are relevant to you, they may be a factor in choosing one health insurer over another.

Cost of health insurance in Ireland

Health insurance costs vary widely as there is such variety in plans available. It has been estimated that there are upwards of 300 health insurance plans available in the Irish market.

The HIA estimated in 2022 that the average cost of an Irish health insurance premium was €1,466 but this is likely out of date. 

Since that time, most health insurance policies have been subject to several price increases. Also the provision of free inpatient public hospital care may have meant that lower priced premiums have become obsolete since that time, likely pushing up the average premium.

health insurance calculator

Prices for health insurance

Here are some prices for fairly entry level health insurance plans for one adult aged over 26, with no loading (ie. purchasing health insurance for the first time aged under 35).

VHI One Plan €111.00 monthly
Laya Advantage 250 Explore €119.59 monthly
Irish Life Benefit Access 300 €84.05 monthly

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Switching private health insurance policy

Switching health insurance plans can become necessary as your health priorities change. A policy that you chose when you first started working or a family policy that you purchased a number of years ago may no longer be the right fit for your healthcare needs.

If you have allowed your health insurance policy to renew each year without comparing newer plans, you are likely also to be overpaying for your health insurance. A price increase will be factored into your premium each year automatically and the premium you pay may no longer represent the best value for money.

Switch at the end of current insurance period

It is best to wait until the end of the insurance period to switch health insurers as health insurance is purchased as a 12 month contract and you may have to pay a charge or pay for the remainder of the 12 month period. You may be able to switch products with the same insurance during the period of insurance without penalty.

Learn more about private health insurance today

Don’t put off buying private health insurance or delay switching your health insurance. 

Health insurance offers you peace of mind that your family is protected should they be ill or need medical care. 

We can find you the best health insurance for your needs, at a price you can afford.

If you already have health insurance contact us to see if you can avail of better value for money cover, without sacrificing the protection you need.

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