Whether you need emergency care, scheduled treatment for a diagnosed issue, or a check-up for new symptoms, accessing public healthcare in Ireland seems to be getting more and more difficult.
Not only did the pandemic cause huge backlogs of patients on waiting lists for treatment, but rising cases of COVID-19, the flu and RSV are resulting in many people waiting in hospitals for hours to access urgent care.
Earlier this week, a record high of 931 people were waiting on trolleys or in hospital waiting rooms for a bed to become available. While consultants and other senior medics are being asked to work weekends to help combat the rising number of patients awaiting treatment, experts have said the problem is likely to keep getting worse – and 5,000 new hospital beds are needed to deal with rising demand, along with more medical professionals.
As an employer, keeping your workforce healthy and minimising long-term sickness is key to maximising your business’ performance and productivity. At a time when accessing healthcare is becoming increasingly difficult, offering a comprehensive health insurance plan as an employee benefit could help your employees access treatment and support more quickly, and get them on the road to recovery sooner.
With many GP practices struggling with rising demand, getting an appointment can prove challenging. Whether you’re suffering from back pain, poor mental health or new symptoms, speaking to a medical professional sooner rather than later can be crucial in helping you get early interventions before the problem worsens.
All three of Ireland’s health insurers provide access to an online GP and nurse phoneline 24/7 as standard.
Laya’s GPlive benefit, for example, offers unlimited online video consultations to provide clinical advice, prescriptions and referrals. Access is unlimited at no extra cost until the end of 2023, and they also provide 24/7 phonelines to speak to GPs, nurses and physiotherapists.
Likewise, Irish Life Health’s Digital Doctor benefit also offers unlimited GP consultations over the phone or via video call, and can issue prescriptions and arrange for you to be referred to a specialist. Meanwhile Vhi’s Online Doctor offers access to a GP through their app, as well as a 24/7 nurse phoneline.
So, whatever your employees are suffering from, providing health insurance can help them speak to a GP or nurse at any time from the comfort of their own home.
Express Care Clinics
In the case of minor injuries and infections, you may be able to avoid long waits in public emergency departments by using a private express care service through your health insurance – helping to access treatment quicker while taking some of the pressure off public services.
Vhi’s 360 Health Centres and Swiftcare Clinics offer rapid access to urgent care for problems like fractures, pains, minor burns and lacerations. Patients can speak with a consultant over the phone, access treatment in one of Vhi’s clinics or use their walk-in service for minor injuries.
Similarly, Laya’s Health and Wellbeing Clinics aim to treat minor injuries and illness within an hour and offer a walk-in facility to avoid long waits at A&E. Laya members are covered for up to €375 for each visit, depending on the level of cover on your plan.
With Irish Life Health, members have rapid access to their network of 19 walk-in minor injury clinics, with no limit on visits. The amount members have to pay for their treatment will depend on the level of cover on your plan.
Mental health services in Ireland have long been under significant strain, with particularly long waiting lists to access support through the public system. Just like physical health, helping your team to maintain good mental wellbeing is vital to improving performance, boosting productivity and reducing absence.
All three health insurance providers offer a range of supports to improve mental health, including Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) to access 24/7 over the phone support for issues like stress, burnout and other mental health difficulties.
In addition, Irish Life Health’s Healthy Minds benefit offers face-to-face counselling sessions, as well as online resources like articles, podcasts and assessments to help members stay on top of their mental health. Members also get access to the LifeWorks app, offering support and tips to live a healthier life.
Laya is offering a range of free, unlimited benefits to members throughout 2023, including 1:1 consultations with health and wellbeing experts, access to a dietitian, and access to a Health Coach or Laya Healthcare Concierge. Depending on your plan, they may be able to refer members for five face-to-face counselling sessions.
Vhi members can also access 24/7 confidential counselling over the phone and, depending on your cover, get referrals for specialist support. Members can also get €30 off mindfulness and meditation apps, Headspace and Calm.
So, with the right health insurance plan, you can enable employees to get quicker access to support for mental health issues as well as help them to maintain good mental wellbeing.
Usually, when a patient visits the GP and needs to see a specialist, they will automatically be referred through the public system – and placed on a lengthy waiting list for an appointment. However, if requested, patients can be referred for private treatment to substantially reduce waiting times for care.
In some cases, requesting a private appointment can reduce the patient’s waiting time from months or years to a matter of weeks or even days.
Many health insurance plans offer money back for private consultations, with the level of financial contribution depending on the plan and level of cover you have in place.
As a result, it’s important you get the right plan for your business and workforce in place to make sure you’re getting the best cover and benefits possible within your budget, rather than just going for the lowest cost option. With the right plan, you can get employees treated and on the road to recovery faster.
Of course, not all treatment needs to take place in a hospital or doctor’s office. Some minor injuries can be treated in the comfort of the patient’s own home, removing the need to sit in a waiting room for long periods of time.
In addition to online and over the phone services like digital GPs, some plans will provide cover for a nurse to visit members’ homes to carry out treatment for minor injuries and illness, such as administering IV antibiotics or cleaning and dressing wounds.
All providers offer support for these services, however cover is only included on selected plans – so check the tables of cover if this benefit is important to your employees.
There are many health insurance plans available to help your workforce access treatment and care, and get on the road to recovery, more quickly. However, benefits and cover vary from one plan to another.
As the public healthcare system struggles with huge demand and long waiting times, ensuring your employees have the best cover available for your budget is more important than ever. As a result, it’s crucial you review your existing cover and compare against other plans available on the market every single year before renewal.
Plans, pricing, benefits and employee needs are constantly changing. So, whether you already have a corporate health insurance plan in place or are looking to offer one as an employee benefit for the first time, reviewing all of your options is crucial to ensuring your workforce has the support they need.
Get in touch with our experts for help find the right health insurance plan for your workforce