Know your rights: Health Insurance and Lifetime Community Rating

The health insurance market is set for its biggest shake-up in years from May 1. Here’s how the changes, may or may not affect you.

The health insurance market is set for its biggest shake-up in years from May 1. Here’s how the changes, may or may not affect you.

Question

I don’t have health insurance and I’ve been told it will be more expensive for me after 1 May because of my age. Can you explain what is changing?

Answer

Up to now, the cost of an inpatient health insurance policy has been the same for everyone regardless of age. This is known as community rating. From 1 May 2015 a system of lifetime community rating will apply, which means that people may be charged more if they are older when they first take out health insurance. This change will not affect you if you already have health insurance before 1 May 2015 and continue to be insured.

If you are taking out health insurance after this date and you are 35 years of age or older, your annual premium will increase depending on the age you are when you start – by 2% for each year over 34. This increase is called a loading. So, for example, if you are aged 35 there will be a 2% loading, but if you start health insurance at 39 there will be a 10% loading. The maximum loading will be 70%.

If you previously had health insurance but let it lapse, the period for which you had health insurance will be taken into account to reduce the loading that applies.

An allowance (of up to three years) can also be made if you gave up health insurance since the start of 2008 because of unemployment.

People who move to Ireland from another country after 1 May 2015 can avoid having a loading applied if they take out health insurance within 9 months and continue to be insured.

If you have health insurance, you can change your health insurance policy or change your insurer without affecting your loading. A gap in insurance of up to 13 weeks is allowed.

Further information is available from the Citizens Information Centre below.

Know Your Rights has been compiled by Co Longford Citizens Information Service which provides a free and confidential service to the public.

Tel: 0761 075 890 Address: Level One, Longford Shopping Centre, Longford

Information is also available online at www.citizensinformation.ie and from the Citizens Information Phone Service, 0761 07 4000.