Although all Irish residents (and EU-citizens as well) are entitled to public health care, either free of charge or at a subsidised rate, you might want to consider buying private health insurance, as it provides much quicker access for non-emergencies.
Private Health Insurance is widely used in Ireland. About half of the Irish population is covered by this form of health insurance. All private health insurance providers are registered with the Health Insurance Authority which is the country's independent regulator for private health insurance.
With the exception of some Restricted Membership Insurers who provide insurance only to a particular group of employees, the three Irish Open Membership Insurers VHI, Laya Healthcare and Aviva Health are obligated to accept all applicants regardless of their age, sex or risk status.
The main benefits of private health insurance are the following:
- semi-private and private hospital accommodation
- in-hospital consultant services
- additional cover including overseas, psychiatric, out-patient and maternity benefits
Before buying private health insurance, you should analyze your needs and priorities. This means asking yourself what hospital cover you want, if you are willing to pay an excess and what your life circumstances are (Are you travelling a lot? Are you planning to have a baby?). You can also change your insurer or your insurance plan any time without penalty. The Health Insurance Authority provides all information that could help you make a decision.
Private health insurance providers in Ireland
The Voluntary Health Insurance Board (VHI), is a statutory corporation and Ireland's largest provider of voluntary private health insurance. It offers various plans, based on Life Stage or Hospital Cover.
Quinn Direct has schemes ranging from Essential starter to Essential gold.
Aviva Health differentiates between different 'Hospital' and 'Everyday' Levels and various 'We, I and Me plans'. It provides the widest choice of hospitals in the Irish insurance market and is the first choice of non-nationals.
The conditions and benefits offered by the three companies are very similar. However, in order to make the right choice you should check the details of each company and chose the scheme that best suits your needs. For further details check the Individual Plans Product Table offered by the Health Insurance Authority.