FAMILIES will be able to design their own health insurance plans in a shake-up that is set to slash the cost of cover.
A new €500 basic plan covers public hospitals only, but will allow customers to add on cover at private facilities at a cost of €80 each.
For example, consumers can build their own plan by choosing to add on hi-tech cardiac cover and a private room.
The plan by GloHealth will allow families strip down a plan to its basics, and only add in other elements if they want them.
Other insurers are expected to follow, in a bid to make health premiums more affordable.
Thousands of people are being forced to review their cover after a spate of price rises this year from the four providers.
Higher medical costs have been blamed for a string of premium rises.
The cost of the insurance has also been hit by Health Minister James Reilly's decision to charge insurers more for using public hospitals.
Now GloHealth is set to launch three new stripped-down plans it claims are the cheapest in the market.
The cheapest plan, Net One, will cost €514 a year for adults when it is launched from May 12.
The new "no-frills" plan covers treatment in 52 public hospitals only, with a semi-private room as standard.
However, customers can add on cover for private hospitals at a cost of €80 each.
Health insurance expert Dermot Goode of Healthinsurancesavings.ie said the GloHealth move was "clever".
But GloHealth has gone further by offering a basic level of cover, allowing families to build in options important to them.
He said GloHealth was the first insurer to allow consumers customise their cover with its personalised packages, and the three new plans take this to a higher level.
But he warned that the lower the premium, the higher the excess imposed by the insurer. An excess is the amount you have to pay yourself before the insurer will cover the claim.
"Consumers are still reeling from the spate of price hikes since January 1, and most now accept that taking on private hospital excesses is the best way of reducing costs," Mr Goode said.
GloHealth will allow customers to vary the level of excess for treatment in private hospitals from €100 per visit to €500.
"If you are admitted to a private hospital for a day-case procedure, the excess will be €50 – which is very attractive given that approximately 60pc of all procedures are carried out on this basis," Mr Goode said.
The plans have a €300 excess for overnight admissions to private hospitals, where private hospital cover is included.
"For those consumers who are looking for basic cover at the lowest cost, they can opt for the new Net One plan costing €514 per adult. It covers all public hospitals excluding the five public orthopaedic facilities such as Cappagh Hospital in Dublin," Mr Goode explained.
GloHealth's chief executive Jim Dowdall told the Irish Independent it was bringing in new plans because research it had conducted showed a strong desire by consumers to only pay for the cover they want.
"Over the past two years, the market has seen a deepening affordability crisis," Mr Dowdall said.
At the end of last year, Laya launched 21 new plans, including a number of no-frills packages, with prices around €500 a year for its new range of Advantage plans.
This was in response to Aviva introducing the cut-price Focus plans.