A SCHEME was launched yesterday that encourages consumers to fund their own healthcare as an alternative to the likes of the VHI.
Avantis Health said consumers would effectively "self-insure" by paying for their own medical costs as an alternative to paying rising health insurance premiums.
The new company has brokered discount deals with hospitals in Ireland and abroad that offer reductions on medical treatments.
Orla Fahy of Avantis said consumers are encouraged to save in a bank account the same amount of money they would spend every month on private medical insurance.
The consumer then registers on the Avantis website and gets access to a cut-price treatment deal at various locations in Ireland or abroad.
The website shows that dental implants, for example, cost €2,132 in this country, but the same procedure can be obtained in Germany for €684.
Ms Fahy said that 30pc of consumers in the UK self-fund their healthcare needs, although that market has what is regarded as a better universal healthcare system.
"Self-funded healthcare is an international norm," said Ms Fahy said.
"With the cost of health insurance policies rising to unsustainable highs, this is an important alternative for Irish consumers and businesses.
"Our research shows Irish patients are paying more for a range of medical treatments than anyone else in Europe. With Avantis Health, Irish consumers can enjoy the same value for money enjoyed by their European counterparts."
Asked how much a family with two adults and two children should be putting aside to fund buying their own medical procedures, Ms Fahy said the equivalent monthly premium for private medical insurance.
Some 70,000 people have stopped paying private medical insurance premiums in the last two years, due to the recession.
Asked if consumers were not taking a risk of ending up on long public health service waiting lists by dropping their health cover, Ms Fahy said most operations in hospitals here are free.
Consumers who opt to self-fund their healthcare needs can take out critical illness policies or hospital cash plans to manage the risk of serious illness.