Question to the Minister for Health (Dr. Leo Varadkar, TD)
To ask the Minister for Health regarding persons returning from overseas or moving to Ireland for the first time who seek to take out private health insurance, if he will introduce measures to require health insurers to recognise health insurance cover held outside of Ireland by providers not registered here; where such policies have been held, if he will provide for an exemption from waiting periods for pre-existing conditions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Jerry Buttimer
For WRITTEN ANSWER on 18, June, 2015.
Periods of cover on health insurance plans held outside the State are not taken into account for the purposes of waiting periods, as such plans do not comply with health insurance legislation or the key principles of community rating, open enrolment, lifetime cover and minimum benefit on which the Irish private health insurance regulatory system is based. Therefore, I do not intend to introduce measures to require health insurers to recognise health insurance cover held outside of Ireland by providers not registered here.
Community rating, reflecting the principle of intergenerational solidarity, is a fundamental cornerstone of the Irish health insurance system. This means that 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 than an individual presents directly affects the premium paid. Thus, different health insurance systems are not directly comparable or related, so periods of cover or time served are not interchangeable between them.
When an individual takes out health insurance for the first time in this country, whether already a resident or a person who previously lived abroad, they may have to serve waiting periods before they are fully covered, but accident and injury will be covered immediately. The application of waiting periods, including those for pre-existing conditions, helps to support community rating and is an important tool for insurers to combat practices where someone could potentially take out a health insurance policy to avail of a particular treatment and then cancel the policy once treatment had been received, without either penalty or sustained contribution to the community-rated system.
For this reason, I do not intend to introduce an exemption from waiting periods for pre-existing conditions, as to do so would only increase the likelihood of claims being made without any contribution to our community-rated system, which in turn would result in increased costs and ultimately higher premium prices for all.