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Happy to accept your premiums.

But not always there for you if you are Deaf!

Posted: 9th June 2016 xxx

Since the launch in January 2015 of the HSE’s National Accessible Guidelines on Accessible Health and Social Care Services, there has been some improvement in access to health services for Deaf people who are sign language users.

In the main, where a Deaf person has requested an Irish Sign Langauge interpreter for a HSE health appointment, the interpreter has been provided in accordance with the new National Accessible Guidelines.

It is important for both the health professional and the Deaf patient that an interpreter is present for a health appointment, as clear communication between doctor and patient is a vital element in providing safe healthcare. xxx


Private Health Insurance

However, Deaf people who see their GP privately or who take out private health insurance have found themselves continuing to have difficulty in getting interpreters for health appointments. The HSE have said that they will not provide interpreters for non-medical card holders who see their GP in a private capacity. This is an issue we are presently pursuing with the HSE, and we will report further on this matter in due course.

Deaf people who have taken out private health insurance have also had difficulty in getting their health insurance company to cover the cost of an interpreter for health appointments. Recently DeafHear contacted the main private healthcare insurers in Ireland to clarify their position on providing sign language interpreters where Deaf members are availing of health services under their private health insurance policy. And we can now tell you what responses we got from VHI, Aviva, Laya and GloHealth!


 Insurance Provider

Provides ISL Interpreter



For some appointments Only for VHI services, e.g. Swiftcare

 Laya Healthcare

Yes On a ‘case by case basis’.


Yes Happy to engage interpreters when requested


No Interpreters the responsibility of health providers



Unfortunately, if you are a Deaf sign language user with a VHI healthcare insurance policy, VHI’s brand promise ‘when you need, us we’re there’ won’t apply fully to you!

VHI said that where they provide a service directly to customers, such as through VHI Swiftcare or VHI HomeCare, the VHI service provider ‘will provide and cover the cost of a sign language interpreter, where this is reasonably required.’ However, VHI added where they are not directly involved in the delivery of health services, ‘the onus is on the relevant service provider i.e. the consultant or the hospital/facility to provide that service in compliance with the legislation.’

VHI also stated that they had reviewed their policies under the Disability and Equality Acts, and that they were satisfied that they were compliant with these Acts and the Minimum Benefit Regulations governing their business.


GloHealth claim they are ‘happy to help’, but if you are Deaf and need a sign language interpreter, GloHealth make it clear that in their view ‘it is the healthcare provider’s responsibility to ensure that their services are accessible to all service users.’

Laya and Aviva

However, both Laya Healthcare and Aviva had more positive news for Deaf policy holders. Laya Healthcare agreed with us ‘wholeheartedly’ that clear communication is an essential part of the health professional and patient relationship.

Laya say that while they don’t currently have arrangements in place to provide sign language interpreters, and that for them this is not a common request, they ‘are certainly open to working with people who require this on a case by case basis.’

Aviva gave the clearest and most positive response of all the private healthcare insurers we contacted. They stated that ‘we are happy to engage sign language interpreters for health appointments with Deaf people whenever this service is requested.’ They also told us that they had only one recent experience of this where a sign language interpreter was booked for a health appointment in a customer’s home. Aviva said that ‘the feedback we got on this was really positive.’

Limited options!

So there you have it. GloHealth is happy to accept premiums from Deaf people, but are of the view that the provision of a sign language interpreter is entirely a matter for the consultant or hospital. DeafHear would be surprised if the needs of Deaf customers was discussed by GloHealth with providers when they were commissioning services from them for their customers!

Another insurer, VHI, will only consider providing an interpreter if they are providing the health service directly. It seems that VHI don’t feel any responsibility for their Deaf customers if they need to access services in non VHI facilities!

Both Laya Healthcare and Aviva are open to providing sign language interpreters when required. So all things considered, if you are a Deaf person considering taking out private healthcare insurance, Laya and Aviva would appear to be your best and only options! Line Break Image

HSE Launch National Guidelines on Accessible Services
Posted: 13th January 2015

DeafHear welcomes the launch of National Guidelines on Accessible Health and Social Care Services. If implemented… [Read On] HSE Launch National Guidelines on Accessible Services

Posted: 9th July 2015

Are things improving for Deaf and Hard of Hearing people? [Read On] ACCESS TO HEALTH SERVICES

Media Contacts will provide spokespersons to comment on issues relevant to Deaf and Hard of Hearing people on request.

To contact Brendan Lennon; Head of Information and Policy, click here...


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