Choosing a Private Health Insurance plan – how to?

Before everything else

While comparing private health insurance plans, put your family’s medical needs under the microscope. Look at the treatments you’ve received in the past. Of course, it’s impossible to predict what issues you may have in the future. Being aware of the past may help you in the future while choosing a plan and what cover that plan should consist of.

What should be your health insurance BUDGET?

Of course, budget is a big factor for most of us and we want to be best served for our needs and our biggest concerns. If you’re rarely ill or visit a doctor then perhaps a large capital or any at all for consultations and exams is not your priority. If you are concerned about a serious illness risk that would involve hospitalization, you may want to look at a plan with a fairly decent capital for hospitalization.

Personally, I think anyone taking on any health insurance plan should be looking for a minimum cover for hospitalization of 50.000€. This may seem like a crazy small amount for some of you coming from the US, for example, but for Portugal it’s going to be pretty difficult to pass this unless you’re perhaps hospitalized for months or have a series of major operations. There is one company with a plan that’s designed for those of retirement age that has the option of just 2500€ or 5000€ for hospitalization; I would strongly suggest avoiding that as it could leave you with a serious hospital bill and would have you terrified of being hospitalized for more than a couple of days! Cheap it may be, but cheap can so often end up expensive! Having consultations and exams included, of course, lets you avoid the often extreme waiting times within the public service to see a specialist and can be a life saver by being seen straight away rather than months down the line.

Do I need a DENTAL insurance?

Usually not something that’s very well covered or if covered at all and when it is, having it as additional cover is not always the best financial decision. The reason I say that is because dental treatment is very cheap here, with consultations costing around 30-80€, the latter in the big cities, but you should be able to find a dentist that charges 40€. Obviously, if you think you’re due some serious dental work then perhaps taking on additional cover could be worth considering. Many standard plans though will at least give you a discount within the insurance company’s network. Certainly, you shouldn’t base your health plan choice too strongly on the dental care it offers. Network – check out what the insurance companies have in your area as you could perhaps find they may have a great network of clinics and hospitals in Lisbon, yet very poor in the Algarve, for example. Most major companies though will be working with the major clinics and
hospitals but ask your agent what’s available in your area. Some companies also have tools that allow you to search online for specific services by post code or town/city. Cover abroad – not an issue for some but for those of you who travel it may be something you want to look at. Not all companies offer this and those who do you’ll find it’s on a refund basis of X %. Don’t expect the same financial costs as within Portugal, it’s going to cost you more abroad but still it’s nice to have this cover should you ever need treatment while outside of Portugal.

Does my AGE matter when opting for health insurance?

Take into consideration that premiums will increase as you get older so budget for that. Also, be aware of companies that will stop cover altogether once you reach a certain age, which is certainly not what you need just as you’ll be perhaps relying on the private care the most.

Health Insurance Pricing

Be careful not to compare apples to oranges. If one company is asking 15€ per month and another 150€ then be assured there is a vast difference in cover. Compare well the cover as I see people claiming they have health insurance, yet all they have is a discount card that gets them a slightly cheaper consultation yet no hospitalization cover or anything else for that matter. You do indeed get what you pay for and if the cover is similar then you’re unlikely to see very big differences in price or even in the co-payments for services.

What else you should know about health insurance?

I think overall the private health system here is very good value and with no deductibles to spend before the insurance kicks in or with extra charges once hospitalized, as it happens in some countries. It’s something those from the US who are well used to having private health care seem to find a delight both for value and care. It may not be obligatory to have here as the public system is indeed rather good in many respects but it’s certainly a very nice and usually affordable luxury to have.

Yours truly,

Ged Heaney

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