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Time to cancel your top-up?

Many top-up health insurance policies are expected to become more expensive in January

MANY top-up health insurance policies are expected to become more expensive next month, so now many be a good time to check that yours offers value for money.

Complémentaires santé (top-up health insurance), also known as mutuelles (though technically this term does not apply to all of them), have an annual renewal date.

Even where the policy is taken out mid-year, this is often subsequently fixed at the start of January. Top-up policies help reimburse health costs that remain payable by a patient after part is reimbursed by the government.

When you receive your renewal notification, which will warn you of any rise, you are able, should you wish, to cancel and change to a different policy or firm. This must be done by recorded delivery letter, within 20 days of the postmark of the renewal letter.

Health insurance expert Peter Owen of www.expathealthcare.co.uk, a member of the Spectrum IFA group, said premiums were "certain to increase" because of a new 3.5 per cent tax on contrats responsables policies (95 per cent of top-ups).

These were previously subject to favourable tax treatment in return for meeting certain state guidelines (eg. they do not reimburse the financial penalty that is applied where a person fails to go via their GP to see a specialist). He said: "The government hoped insurers could swallow the extra tax without passing it on, but that’s dreamland."

In addition, a spokeswoman for the body representing mutuelles said it is usual for many policies to go up in January subject to increasing costs of healthcare because of new technologies or because certain acts or medicines are to be reimbursed by the state at lower rates than before.

Many will rise about four to10 per cent this time, she said: "It depends on how financially healthy the scheme is, because they are not allowed to go into deficit."

Mr Owen said many people did not have policies that were good value, whether because the cover is not best-tailored to their needs or because of other factors. "Insurers do not all apply the same criteria for

assessing premiums, eg. they all go up as you get older, but some insurers base those of a couple on the age of the younger partner and others average the ages out. Some vary the costs by sex, eg. increasing premiums for females under 60 because they claim more often than men. Now is a good time to shop around and to know your cancellation rights."

Check that your top-up covers healthcare aspects you are most likely to need and at suitable percentages. These are based on the set state tariff for a given procedure, eg. a GP visit is €22, of which the state reimburses 70 per cent (€15.40).

A 100 per cent mutuelle will reimburse you to 100 per cent of the set tariff. However "sector 2" doctors can charge more, even though your reimbursement will still be based on the state tariff. A 150 per cent or 200 per cent etc. mutuelle may therefore be of benefit, especially if you often visit specialists, many of whom charge high fees.

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