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Choosing a policy

Choosing a health insurance policy is an important decision. You should check the level of cover and the terms and conditions before you enter into any health insurance contract. You can compare health insurance policies for free by using our comparison tool, or you can contact us for information and advice.

Read our guide to choosing a health insurance policy for more detailed information. For general information about health insurance, read our FAQ and glossary.

Questions to ask yourself before choosing a policy

What kind of hospital accommodation will I get?

Private health insurance policies offer two different types of accommodation: semi-private rooms and private rooms. Semi-private rooms are hospital rooms with up to five beds. Private rooms are hospital rooms with one bed. Semi-private rooms and private rooms are subject to availability. This means that even if you have cover for a private room, you may have to share a room if there are no private rooms available. Private health insurers in Ireland generally group Irish hospitals into three categories:

  • Public hospitals (hospitals that are funded by the State)
  • Private hospitals
  • Other private hospitals such as the Blackrock Clinic, the Mater Private, and the Beacon Hospital. These are sometimes called high-tech hospitals.

Before entering into a health insurance contract, you should check what level of hospital accommodation cover you have.

Which benefits are most important to me?

When you are choosing a policy, you should consider your lifestyle and current health needs. For example, if you need regular physiotherapy, you should choose a policy that has good outpatient cover.

How much could I benefit from private health insurance?

Sometimes it’s hard to tell how much you could benefit from private health insurance. It might be useful to think about how often you expect to claim under a particular benefit and work out whether it’s good value for you to have this benefit in your policy. For example, if you are choosing between a cheaper policy that doesn’t include dental cover and a more expensive policy that includes high dental cover, but you normally visit the dentist only once a year, it might make sense to choose the cheaper policy.

How much risk am I willing to accept?

Sometimes private health insurance contracts include an excess. An excess is the first part of any insurance claim that you have to pay yourself. You may be able to find a cheaper policy if you are willing to take on the risk of potentially paying an excess. If you are not willing to take this risk, choose a policy without an excess.

If you don’t typically use a lot of outpatient services such as visits to the GP or physiotherapy, you could choose a policy with lower outpatient benefits and take the risk that you will not require an unusual amount of outpatient services. This may be another way to reduce the cost of your health insurance.

If you want to have cover for private care for orthopaedic or ophthalmic treatments, you may want to consider paying more for a policy with these benefits.

Can I use a regulated financial advisor to help me choose a policy?

Yes, a regulated financial advisor or salesperson may be able to help you choose a policy that is suitable for your needs. Before you decide to use a regulated financial advisor or salesperson, ask about their fees or charges. They may be paid a commission or sales incentive by the insurance company they represent or whose product they sell. They may get more commission or sales incentive from selling one product over another. They may also charge you a fee.

However, a regulated financial advisor must act in your best interest. They must make sure the product or service they recommend or offer is suitable for you and they must be able to show you (in writing) why they feel it is suitable for you. You may wish to get a copy of this document.