HEALTH insurance companies have hiked prices no fewer than 12 times since last autumn.
This has seen the cost for an average family on private medical insurance jump by between 20pc and 30pc.
Go back further and the increases become even more severe -- the cost has doubled.
But there is plenty families can do to keep costs down.
One option is to take on an excess -- the amount the consumer pays first before getting a claim covered -- for a private hospital, according to Dermot Goode of www.healthinsurancesavings.ie.
Doing this means that the insured consumer will have to pay the first €75 to €125 for a stay in hospital. But accepting an excess will mean getting a cut of around 10pc on cover.
Another option is to opt for a corporate plan.
This is marketed at large companies, but has to be made available to individuals if they ask for it.
A corporate plan is usually cheaper than an individual plan, and sometimes has better benefits.
But this may not be suitable for those who have to go into hospital regularly.
Consumers can also save by buying some of the new, more affordable plans.
These are priced at between €795 and €940 a year for adults.
Consumers would be wise to watch out for special offers. Health insurers regularly offer free or half-priced cover for children. Glo does not charge for children under three.
From next Thursday Laya will offer half-price for students and children on its Health Smart plan.
Families can cut the cost of health insurance by splitting the cover, according to Mr Goode.
This may involve putting children on a lower-priced plan than the adults. However, if one child has special requirements they may need a plan with good benefits.