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Wednesday 27 September 2023 Dublin: 10°C
# the big deadline
Here’s what you need to know about the health insurance changes
The LCR deadline is midnight tomorrow – and providers have been reporting a rush to the phones as people sign up

Note: This article was originally posted last week. It’s being republished today, ahead of tomorrow’s midnight deadline for ‘Lifetime Community Rating’

HEALTH INSURANCE… It’s not something many of us want to spend much of our time thinking about – but if you were a child in the 1980s (there’s no shame in it), you might find today’s Q&A useful.

Health insurance expert Dermot Goode of stopped by the office to talk us through the scheme kicking in this week that the government hopes will compel us all to take out health insurance. 

Under Lifetime Community Rating, everyone aged over 34 will have to take out private health insurance – or pay a penalty if they decide to take it up later in life (those taking out policies for the first time who are 35 or older will be slugged with a 2% surcharge for every year they are over the threshold).

The deadline is midnight tomorrow - and insurance providers have been reporting a rush to the phones in the last week as people attempt to get on board before the train leaves the station.

“I think unfortunately it’s the Irish psyche – there’s a lot of people I’ve spoken to who aren’t willing to part with their money until the 30 April,” Goode says.

What they need to realise is that there’s going to be thousands of people, I believe, trying to complete quotations or sign up by next Thursday.

“What you can actually do is you can phone the insurance company today, and you can set up a policy effective from next Thursday and you can set up your direct debits so the first deduction doesn’t come out until the end of May.”

You’ll also, he says, have a two week ‘cooling off period’ from 30 April in which you can cancel or change your policy, or switch to a different provider.

I think there are people who are going to miss this deadline so I would suggest to people – don’t do it next week, do it now and avoid the rush and get in.

What you need to know

We’ve included Dermot’s answers to some of the major questions readers had, below this first clip – but if you’re looking for some good, general advice about what LCR might mean for you, check out the full video at the base of the article.

First though, a bit about why this scheme is being introduced – what people think of it, and what it means if you’re in the affected age-group…

Video / YouTube

The big questions

Are these budget plans that are being advertised any use? 

In my view, they’re only a means of avoiding the age loading – so if you want quality health insurance you will not get that for €400. You would need to be spending double that – you would need to be spending €800, and that’s for a half decent plan that would cover you for public and private hospitals. But if you really want good cover – and I mean good cover where you’d have a low excess and you’ll get money back on all your routine expenses, that’s triple that, you’d need to be spending around €1,200. So people need to be very careful – there’s only so much you’re going to get for €400.

But they’re a means to an end – if you want to avoid the penalties? 

For anybody watching this who wants to avoid the loadings, then yes – look at those entry-level plans, because they get you on the first rung, and once you’re in the system, there’s no loadings. You can always upgrade at a later stage. 
If I do decide on a budget plan – what should I look for? 
All four providers have plans ranging from €395 to €449 so you could actually pick whichever one you want. There’s two providers, Laya Healthcare and Glo Health, which are the only ones to have plans just under €400. But all four have offers there, and they also have really good offers for children under the age of 18 in terms of either free cover or cover costing €100 so there’s good offers there to suit everybody.
I’m over 35 and don’t have cover, but had it in the past. How am I affected? 
If you had previous health insurance cover they will give you credit for that. If you were made redundant from 2008 onwards and you had to drop your health insurance because of redundancy and you are in receipt of social welfare payments they will give you three years’ credit as well. [...] If somebody had health insurance for a long time and just let it go maybe for a year, they may find that there’s little or no penalty to be paid.
Does time on my parents’ policy count?
[Answering a question from a reader] Let’s say she joined when she was 40 – the time that she was insured on her parents’ policy as an adult, she will get credit for that, so it will reduce the loadings.
Dermot also answered questions on what the change means for people currently living abroad, how much treatment can cost if you’re not covered (more than we thought) … and how to shop around for a good deal. 

Video / YouTube

Video: Nicky Ryan

Something completely different: Father Ted co-creator Arthur Mathews dropped by for a chat yesterday

Try this: 3 Midweek Longreads: Why Murder She Wrote rules

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