Health insurers ordered to give more information to families renewing policies

HEALTH insurers have been ordered to provide more information to families when they are renewing their policies.

This is to avoid them signing up automatically for the same plan when there are better value options.

The Central Bank, which recently became responsible for the regulation of all health insurers in the market, said the four firms here need to do more to protect consumers.

It carried out a probe of health insurers at their offices.

It was found that the level of care provided by health insurers varied widely.

Separate research by the Central Bank found that 85pc of people renew on the same plan.

More than half of consumers said they find it difficult to choose between different plans.

This is despite the fact that insurers are constantly changing plans, introducing new ones, and retiring older ones. Long-established plans tend to offer poorer value.

Director of consumer protection at the Central Bank Bernard Sheridan said: “We found that consumers find it difficult to compare policies and most consumers renew the same policy with the same provider.”

Mr Sheridan has now ordered VHI, Laya, Aviva and GloHealth to change the content and presentation of letters sent to families at renewal time.

Insurers will now have to:

•Clearly explain to consumers that their policy will auto-renew on to the same policy if they do not contact their insurer prior to their renewal date, and

•Encourage consumers to make contact during the renewal process to ensure the provider assesses if there are more suitable policies available.

The Central Bank was not happy about the way consumers are treated at renewal time.

Mr Sheridan said: “We also found that renewal notices issued to consumers are not highlighting important information, and that providers should be doing more to ensure that they are providing the most suitable insurance policy, particularly when consumers are purchasing on-line.”

The regulator said it was taking action against three unnamed insurers over how they gather information on their websites for quotations for consumers.

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