I never truly understood the importance of having Health Insurance until recently. I knew and understood the benefits of having it, exactly what cover it provided you with and the extra cover and benefits available but knowing and experiencing are two very different things. What I recently learned could not be thought by any insurance broker or read in any health insurance brochure.
It all happened a few months ago when I was feeling a little ill and decided to go into the hospital and get checked over. After a long wait in the Accident and Emergency department I was finally seen by a doctor. While the wait was quite frustrating I understood that there were people a lot worse than me that needed to be seen as ambulances rushed people in and out for about 6 hours. It reminded me of something resembling a zoo to say the least. Total chaos and noise everywhere, people on trolleys, drunken people, sick children, people on drugs (and not the kind you get from the doctor), people rushing up and down halls etc. Not a nice experience.
Once examined by the doctor a couple of blood tests later and I was all checked in. Operation scheduled for that afternoon. No long waiting period or scheduled appointments months in advance. No I would be seen that day. The first benefit of my health insurance was that I got seen. The second was that I got a room to myself so off I go to my private room to enjoy a bit of peace and quiet. Five star it was not but comfortable, clean and with its own private bathroom attached I was certainly feeling very special compared to other patients who lay in wards of 6-8 people or even those still lying on a trolley downstairs from the night before.
Our health system is seriously overstretched with no sign of any improvement in the short-term. Similar situations prevail across the country as more and more departments are closed down and moved to other hospitals to try to create centres of excellence.
Private healthcare won't necessarily guarantee you will be dealt with quicker as serious cases still get priority but it certainly helps you obtain a bed and clears up any financial worries you may have about any treatments you require. A quick look over my admissions form tells me that a private room in a public hospital costs close to €1,000 per day. And that's before you even talk to a doctor, consultant or surgeon etc. Even in a public ward you can expect to pay a government levy of €75 per day up to a maximum of 10 days (€750) in any 12 months. Mu bill in the end was over €5,000 for just 4 nights a quick operation, nothing too specialised and the usual treatment one would expect in a hospital.
The alternative to private health insurance is not a nice one I can assure you. A walk along the public ward on the floor above really opened my eyes to the benefits I was receiving downstairs. The noise of other patients and their visitors as they crowded in at visiting times, sickness everywhere and even just the general feel of the place would be enough to make you sick. Not to mention the arguments you could have over the TV.
Yes health insurance can be expensive and premiums are increasing across the board but the alternative is even more expensive. What if you can't get the treatment you need, when you need it or have to pay for private care? Would you be able to? I know I certainly couldn't afford it. Would you put off attending a doctor or hospital for fear of what it might cost you and what would these actions cost your health? If you think health insurance is expensive think of the alternative and you may just see the benefits.