'All-out price war' expected as VHI slashes the cost of its plans again
The State's largest health insurer is cutting the cost of the majority of its plans, with older people set to be the big winners.
It is the second time in three months that VHI has announced a reduction in its premiums. Experts said the move would spark an all-out price war.
The cuts are set to save families up to €450 a year, with average savings of around €150. The company has around one million customers.
VHI bosses said the average reductions would be 5.5pc, and plans that many older people are on are coming down by 10pc.
The company is also enhancing the benefits on a number of schemes. It is introducing a new online GP service, is offering cash back for engaging fitness coaches, and expanding its cardiac care benefits.
Some 62 of the health insurer's policies are set to be cheaper from March. However, huge numbers of VHI customers could miss out as they are due to renew this month. The company said these people would benefit from decreases it announced before Christmas.
In November, the State-owned insurer cut the price on 26 of its 78 plans.
VHI director of marketing and business development Declan Moran said a family of two adults and two children on the One Plan Starter plan would see the annual cost come down by €224.
Health insurance expert Dermot Goode said the fact that VHI was again cutting prices meant it was ramping up the price war it started. The move would see families save at least €150 a year.
"This is good news for consumers as it will benefit most people. The reaction of other insurers to this will be interesting. Now we have a real price war."
The November cuts from VHI prompted reductions from Laya and Irish Life Health.
Mr Goode, of TotalHealthCover.ie, said the price cutting move by VHI could also entice more people back into the market or to join as new members.
It is understood the cuts are an attempt to build market share by VHI. It also understood to have had a good financial year, boosted by fewer claims made by members.
Mr Moran said: "As a not-for-profit organisation that exists solely to meet the healthcare needs of our customers, we are pleased to be in a position to give back to our customers.
"This is due to a solid business performance over the last number of years supported by another strong financial performance in 2017."
He said that along with the price reductions members would benefit from improved primary care and reduced excesses - the amount a member has to pay on a claim.
Among the benefits being added to plans are access to an online doctor, genetic testing for hereditary cancer on certain plans covered at Blackrock Clinic, and strength and conditioning coach visits on 26 plans.
Plans popular with older people are going down in price. HealthPlus Extra, which used to be called Plan B Options, is being reduced by €130 a year for each adult.
HealthPlus Premium, which was called Plan D, will be €387 cheaper for an adult.
HealthPlus Platinum, which was Plan E, will be €555 cheaper per adult.
A family of two adults and two children on the One Plan Starter will currently pay €1,550 a year. From March, the family will see the price fall by more than €220.
At the lower end of the scale, a child's cover under the One Plan Family will fall by 2pc, to just over €148 for the year.
VHI is the market leader, but it also has the largest percentage of older subscribers.