Do you have private health insurance? If you’re young, fit and healthy, the chances are you’ve never even considered taking out cover. Maybe you are relying on tax relief to ease the blow of medical bills? This is fine although if you develop a serious illness or require prolonged hospital treatment, you could end up in financial trouble.
In Ireland, everyone is entitled to free hospital care, subject to certain daily bed charges or casualty (A&E) fees but thanks to our 2-tier health service, waiting times in the public system tend to be much longer than in private health care. Over a million Irish people, with incomes below a certain level, are covered by the state General Medical Service scheme, for totally free hospital care. However, if you develop a long-term health problem but do not qualify for a medical card or hold private health insurance, you could find yourself in trouble with medical expenses.The more serious your illness, the more costly your treatment. Those on a lower rate of tax, can only claim back 20 percent of their medical costs. If you plan to rely on tax relief to make your medical expenses more affordable, you need to make sure that the treatment or care you receive qualifies for tax relief. The hospitals, doctors, dentists and therapists you see must be approved by the Revenue Commissioners – otherwise, you may not be eligible for relief. Some of the things that qualify for relief include doctors’ and consultants’ fees, prescriptions from a doctor or consultant, treatment in a hospital or approved nursing home, routine maternity care, in-vitro fertilisation, wheelchairs prescribed by a doctor, orthodontic treatment, and surgical extraction of impacted wisdom teeth.
If you have private health insurance, you can still claim tax relief on your medical expenses but only on those expenses which have or will not be reimbursed by your insurer. And remember, if you do not have any health insurance cover whether by choice or because you simply cannot afford it, there is always the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) if you end up needing hospital treatment. If you are a public patient on a public hospital waiting list and have been waiting over three months for an operation or procedure, you may get your treatment free of charge if you qualify for this scheme.
Private health insurance is not an automatic guarantee of financial security – cover can be refused on a technicality or expenses may be only partially covered – but it does offer peace of mind in case of serious illness. The fact that over 50 percent of the population choose to have health insurance cover, says a great deal. While you may be happy to wait, sometimes your health cannot afford the delay.