Health insurance

Are you getting the most out of your health insurance? Many of us fail to claim these benefits – The Irish Times

Like most other things it seems, health insurance costs are rising. From July, Irish Life Health will impose its second price increase since the start of the year, in a move that will increase the annual cost of some family policies by more than €400.

And where one insurer goes, others are likely to follow.

So, isn’t it time to get the best value out of your private insurance policy if you are among the one-in-two people in Ireland with one?

While most of us would prefer cheaper insurance premiums and cover for the essentials – rather than any extras – it still makes sense to get the most out of what you’re currently paying for.

Indeed, you may be adept at claiming money back for a visit to your GP, or the dentist (penurious as the latter may be), but many of us fail to claim a host of other benefits, many of which are added without us even realising.

Here we give you some ideas of what you might not be claiming for. Just remember to watch out for a potential excess on your policy – you don’t want to get a discretionary treatment only to later discover that you need €200 in claims before you will actually start to benefit.

And make sure you check with your insurer that you are covered, before you avail of any of the following.

‘Beauty’ treatments

With summer holidays ramping up, having your feet in decent nick is a concern for men and women alike. While a traditional pedicure in a beauty salon will cost upwards of about €50/€60 – and effectiveness can vary – a medical pedicure can deliver much the same, with a greater level of expertise.

At The FootCareClinic, for example, which has branches in Donnycarney and Palmerstown in Dublin, a medi-pedi involves cleaning the feet and toenails, trimming and polishing nails, and if necessary, removing calluses, corns and ingrown nails. Removing any lingering dead skin, and hydrating the feet, is also part of the treatment. Not only that, you can also get your nails painted – but you’ll have to bring your own polish. In Limerick, you can get a medi-pedi with The Footcare Clinic for just €35.

And, depending on your insurance policy, you may be entitled to up to half of this back. Irish Life, for example, offers 50 per cent back on podiatrist visits for up to 12 visits a year, on a number of its plans, while with VHI, you can get up to 75 per cent back per visit, on the insurer’s PMI 17 10 plan.

Or what about a massage?

A full body massage with Calm Beauty in Drumcondra costs €95 for 90 minutes. And, as members of the Irish Massage Therapists Association (IMTA), you may be eligible for an insurance refund.

Irish Life, for example, offers benefits on a number of its plans for massage therapy. For example, members of its 4D Health 3 plan can now get 50 per cent back on the costs of up to 12 massages a year, as long as the therapist is a member of the IMTA.

This could bring the aforementioned massage down to just €47.50 – a fair comparison when you could easily spend more than €100 on a similar massage in a beauty salon.

You may also find that you qualify for money back on a sports massage.

Teeth whitening is another popular cosmetic treatment. With Laya Healthcare, you can get a discount of 10 per cent on the procedure (currently costing €99) at White Smile Clinic in both Dublin and Cork.

Irish Life Health offers a 20 per cent discount on treatments with The White House, which brings the cost of a 45-minute treatment down to €116. VHI offers a €50 discount on at-home whitening treatments.

It is also possible to get a discount on laser hair removal, as Irish Life offers a €25 discount on such facial treatments. Just keep your receipts and claim in the normal way.

If you’re hoping for a “refresh” to your face, however, you’ll have to pay top dollar. VHI, Laya and Irish Life all say that cosmetic procedures such as Botox are not covered (unless for certain medically necessary procedures), while if you attend a dermatologist for fillers or facelifts, you won’t get cover. Again, procedures with dermatologists are only covered if they are medically necessary the insurer says – although as it’s not always clear if this is the case, then you might find that a consultation to discuss anti-ageing procedures etc may be covered.

Designer sunglasses

Through a combination of the State’s optical benefits plan, which allows you to get a free eye test, plus money towards a pair of glasses once every two years – currently €42.37 – and your insurance cover, you may be able to secure a pair of designer sunglasses at a considerable discount.

This is because when you buy sunglasses through Specsavers or Opticalrooms, for example, (even if they have no prescription in them), many insurers will offer you a fixed amount back on your total expenditure.

On some plans, VHI offers 75 per cent of charges, up to €150, back on glasses once every two years.

And as some opticians, such as Specsavers, offer further incentives on the sale of sunglasses when buying prescription glasses, the savings can add up.

Sports stuff

Insurers have also stepped up what they offer in terms of sports, wellness and fitness benefits.

Laya, for example, has a digital gym service, which is available to all members aged over 16. It gives them access to more than 20 online classes a week, including Pilates, yoga and HIIT. The insurer says it sees “strong digital demand” for services such as these.

Irish Life, meanwhile, offers payments of up to €100 on the cost of your annual sports club fee. So, if you’re a member of a gym, GAA club or soccer club (or your kids are), don’t forget to claim this as soon as you pay your annual fees. Depending on your plan, you may also get up to €60 a year for yoga and Pilates classes.

Elsewhere, VHI gives its members their entry fee back for the VHI Women’s Mini Marathon, while at its 360 Health Centre in Carrickmines, yoga and Pilates are offered as a part of a follow-on package.

You may be surprised to learn that if you’re in the market for a so-called “wearable tracker”, such as a Fitbit or Apple Watch, you may be entitled to some money back.

With Irish Life, for example, you can get up to €50 back on the cost, while Laya advises members to check their policies, as it too offers money back on such tech.

Irish Life also offers 50 per cent back on the cost of a foam roller, up to €30, as well as a host of other protective sports stuff, such as a fitted gum shield, hurling helmet, shin guards etc.

And Irish Life offers €25 per session with a personal trainer, for up to three visits.

Travel insurance

On the one hand, it’s a nice added benefit, to get your travel needs covered at the same time as your health insurance policy, at no extra cost.

Irish Life offers free travel cover with Mapfre Assistance on some of its policies.

The difficulty is perhaps, that first, the policy may not be sufficient to meet your needs, as often, you’ll find that it is only adults on the policy that benefit, as they are more likely to have the more expensive policies that offer this.

And, as adults will need to be on a policy with a child, it means that you can’t just get another policy in your children’s’ name only.

VHI doesn’t offer this incentive – while all of its plans have emergency medical cover abroad up to €100,000, you’ll have to take out separate cover for your flights, baggage etc.

Laya also offers this cover, as well as a 20 per cent discount for anyone taking out their travel insurance with Laya Travel via its website.

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