Everyone wants to know that they’ll get the care they need when they need it.

In Ireland, you have two options for finding medical treatment. You can use the public system if you are an Irish or EU national or if you have one year of residency in Ireland. Or you can buy private health insurance to access the Irish private healthcare system.

Almost half the country chooses to use private health insurance offered by one of four providers. Why do so many people choose health insurance when they have access to the public system?

For many, health insurance grants flexibility that you won’t typically find when you rely on the public system alone.

What does health insurance in Ireland cover?

Irish health insurance is primarily used to cover hospital stays and in-patient procedures.

When you sign up for health insurance, you first decide whether you want a plan that covers public hospitals, private hospitals, or a mix of the two. Your premium will largely depend on your preferred hospital coverage. Plans offering only public hospital options are typically the least expensive.

Beyond hospital stays, health insurance covers a wide range of procedures, treatments, and wellness options. Some of these come free with your policy. You may find other procedures or treatments come with a deductible or require you to claim your money back.

It’s important to choose your cover correctly. The sheer number of plans makes it easy to find yourself over-insured, under-insured, and even in a private hospital where your bed fee is covered but your procedure isn’t.

How do you use Irish health insurance?

Once you sign up for health insurance, you can start using some of the benefits right away. You’ll either get your benefits free at the point of access, or you submit a claim back to your insurer for reimbursement.

However, you won’t get all your benefits immediately. If you are taking out new health insurance or upgrading your cover dramatically, then you may need to go through a waiting period. You can usually claim for an accident or injury immediately. But if you want maternity cover or care for a long-term illness, you could wait six months to five years before you can claim for those costs.

So if you want to use private health insurance in Ireland, it’s important to stick with it. Letting your insurance lapse or only buying a very basic plan can leave you out-of-pocket for months or years.

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