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Senator Martin Conway has asked private health insurance companies to eliminate the small print in customers' insurance policies. Photograph by John Kelly.

Health insurance companies must eliminate small print – Conway

THOUSANDS of Clare patients have been urged to seek clarity on what their private health insurance documentation covers before signing up for another year.

Senator Martin Conway has urged the health insurance industry to eliminate small print from all their documentation in order to ensure all customers are fully aware of what they are covered for.

The Fine Gael Spokesperson on Health in the Seanad said it is not acceptable that people only discover that they have either partial cover or no cover at all when they are in need of a medical procedure.

“This is adding to the stress and anxiety that people are facing during what is a traumatic and difficult period in their lives.

“The last thing that somebody facing medical treatment should be anxious about is whether their health insurance will cover them or not. They deserve to know that information and not have to find it out when the cover is needed.

“I also believe that health insurance companies have a duty to clearly communicate with their customers when selling or renewing their premiums in order to avoid potential stress and anxiety.

“The myriad of different plans and cover options can end up confusing people and can lead to people signing up for something that they are unsure of. This is a problem particularly for older people who end up being persuaded to change or upgrade and may do so unaware that the new option may not include pre-existing conditions.”

Speaking in the Seanad recently during a discussion on the new Health Insurance Amendment Bill 2020, Senator Conway stressed there is an obligation on the health insurance regulator, the companies and Health Minister Stephen Donnelly to ensure the various plans available from the four insurance companies are easy to understand, are written in plain English, and that there are no tricks in the small print.

“There is a job of work to be done in this regard. When people are sick and require hospital care and medical intervention, the last thing they should wonder is whether they are entitled to have certain procedures covered and whether it is only a percentage of a procedure that is covered or a percentage of hospital inpatient care.

“We need to look at uniformity of health plans. We need to take the complication out of it and we need to make it simple,” he said.

Minister of State the Department of Health Frank Feighan said the basis of Government policy in the area of private health insurance is to ensure that people have access to affordable private health insurance regardless of their age, gender or health status.

This means people who are old or sick do not have to pay more than the young and healthy, whereas in other health insurance systems the level of risk that an individual presents directly affects the premium paid.

Minister Feighan said the purpose of the Bill is to specify the revised credits and corresponding stamp duty levies to apply on health insurance policies from April 2021.

Against the background of some uncertainty about the impact of Covid 19 on the health insurance industry, he stated the credit and levy rates for the next year strike a fair balance between the need to support community rating while maintaining sustainability of the market during these unprecedented times.

Dan Danaher


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