Will there be a waiting period if I upgrade my health insurance plan?

Christel Deskins

Q. I am thinking of upgrading my current semi-private plan to a higher plan that covers private accommodation in private hospitals. I am generally in good health but I want to know whether this higher benefit will commence immediately, or whether I will have to serve a waiting period as […]

Q. I am thinking of upgrading my current semi-private plan to a higher plan that covers private accommodation in private hospitals. I am generally in good health but I want to know whether this higher benefit will commence immediately, or whether I will have to serve a waiting period as it’s an upgrade in my cover?

A. Whenever a member is considering upgrading cover, they are right to check the upgrade rule which applies equally across each of the health insurers, according to Dermot Goode of TotalHealthCover.ie.

If you have any existing conditions present and you are likely to need hospital treatment for these, Mr Goode says.

All insurers will restrict your cover for these conditions to the previous lower level of cover for a further two years after you upgrade to the higher plan. As you are in good health, this should not be an issue for you and all new conditions arising after the change has come into effect will be assessed under the new plan assuming all other waiting periods have been served, he added. Mr Goode said prior checking for all treatment in advance with your insurer is recommended to avoid unnecessary shortfalls.

Q. My fiancée and I are planning our wedding for next year. Even though we’ve had to scale back our initial plans due to Covid, we still want to plan something special and are considering taking out a wedding loan for around €10,000. We were initially thinking of putting it on a credit card and paying it off as soon as possible from financial gifts, but would we do better with using our savings and getting a personal loan to cover the rest?

A. You should be wary of sourcing lump sums of credit from a short-term source, according to the chief executive of the Credit Union Development Association Kevin Johnson.

Credit cards are some of the most expensive forms of credit out there, and using credit cards can be a fast way of getting into a cycle of debt that can be very difficult to break free from, he says. Credit unions offer very competitive loan rates with an average of around 10.5pc APR (annual percentage rate). The maximum ceiling of APR payable on all credit union loans is 12pc.

If you were to borrow €10,000 over five years with an APR of 10.5pc it would mean that you would make 60 weekly repayments of €49. Mr Johnson said. The cost of credit would be €2,707, with the total amount repayable standing at €12,707. If you were to combine your savings and a loan, you might also consider availing of a much shorter loan of, say, 36 months. If you were to halve the loan amount, using €5,000 of savings and borrowing the remaining €5,000 at an APR of 10.5pc your loan repayment will be €37 per week, the cost of credit €789, giving a total amount payable of €5,789, he added. In terms of repayment, many credit unions offer flexible loan terms so that can pay off your loan early, make additional lump-sum repayments or increase your regular repayments, all without penalty or charge. This might benefit you specifically as you mentioned your hopes to repay the financing from cash wedding gifts.

Q. I have started working in a new company that pays for my health insurance. I am also thinking of taking out a separate dental insurance policy as I will need to get some work done. I spoke with DeCare Dental which advised that full cover for routine check-ups applies immediately on joining with no waiting periods. Is this correct?

A. You are correct, according to Dermot Goode of TotalHealthCover.ie. On all these dental policies, full cover for routine check-ups (a maximum of two per year) is normally included, with no waiting periods, he says. Once you are on the policy for three months, you can then start claiming for other routine treatment such as fillings and extractions and the benefit payable for these is usually between 50pc to 75pc, depending on the plan held. All other benefits, such as those for major treatments, usually do not commence until you are on the policy for 12 months or more, Mr Goode added. He said you are correct to contact the insurer in advance of any treatment to confirm the exact coverage, which should ensure no nasty surprises or unnecessary shortfalls. If considering a DeCare Dental policy, you should check out the Healthy Smiles Level 3 or Level 4 schemes, Mr Goode advises.

Need to know

If you are considering upgrading your health insurance cover it is wise to check the upgrade rule that applies across all health insurers.

Credit cards are some of the most expensive forms of credit out there, and using one can be a fast way of getting into a cycle of debt.

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