Understanding Private Healthcare Insurance In Ireland
The Republic of Ireland operates what is commonly known as a “two-tier” healthcare program. This means that a private healthcare industry runs alongside and, in some instances, with the public sector, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t cross paths with each other.
Suppose you’re involved in a serious accident or have a heart attack. In cases like these, you will be taken to the closest, most appropriate medical facility and treated there irrespective of your access to private medical insurance, so many people would wonder, what’s the point?
The public healthcare system in Ireland ranks amongst the best in the world with excellent facilities, a team of globally sourced and highly skilled medical professionals and specialists, high-quality medical equipment such as Vertu Medical CT Scanners, and access to emergency treatment on demand that is free at the point of delivery.
So is it even worth it to pay upwards of €3500 a year for a family of four?
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What is the Current State of Private Healthcare in Ireland?
There are currently 21 private hospitals in Ireland. They can be found in Cork, Galway, Kerry, Kildare, Kilkenny, Limerick, Sligo, Waterford, Westmeath and Dublin – the majority of these 21 are centred in and around Dublin, somewhat predictably.
Anyone can use these hospitals, but for the uninsured, it will involve a cost, and this cost will be substantially greater than anything you’d have to pay when accessing public hospitals run under the Health Service Executive or HSE.
In addition to this, many private healthcare providers offer services independently of the HSE and receive no state funding. You get the picture – from psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental healthcare practitioners, oncologists, orthopaedic surgeons, and cardiologists.
Anyone may access these providers, but the cost of their services will be for your account, and if you don’t have private healthcare insurance, you can expect to pay quite a bit for their service out of pocket. There are several providers, and you can find comparative quotations from some of the best providers here.
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So, Where do the Two Tiers Differ?
One could be forgiven for asking what is the point of private healthcare if one would potentially be taken to the closest hospital in an emergency that may or may not be a private or public hospital in any case?
Well, that’s a bit of a loaded question because while the public healthcare service in Ireland is excellent, there are some instances where you would, in practice, receive a better quality of healthcare service in the private sector based on the time you have to wait to see a medical professional.
At the end of July 2021, more than 900,000 patients were waiting on appointments with consultants within the public healthcare system, a dramatic rise since the same time the year before and added to that, more than 268,000 patients have been on this waiting list for more than a year.
And even though pediatric care and maternity benefits are free at the point of delivery and of a very high standard, something of a relief for parents thinking about starting a family, the waiting lists for many medical services for children are still too long of a wait, with many parents waiting at least 18 months for their children to be seen by consultants for the likes of tonsillectomies. So the question is, can you or your child wait that long to be seen by a medical professional?
If you had private healthcare insurance, this wouldn’t be a problem that would affect you. Yes you’d be added to a waiting list but most likely have your appointment fulfilled within a couple of months rather than years.
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`The argument between public and private healthcare has in the past and still is causing issues within the public system as there are cries that this is effectively creating a type of system where the financially better off can access potentially life-improving and saving treatment at much faster times (on-demand, virtually) whereas those without simply cannot.
Whether or not you choose to take up private healthcare insurance or not will depend on a number of factors – from whether you can afford to, to your appetite for risk, but clearly, it is not as easy a decision to make.
Photos by Greg Rosenke – CCO Licence