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Sunday 22 April 2018

Check: Can you get cheaper or better health insurance plan as latest price war begins

(stock image)
(stock image)
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

Could this be the year we see real competition in the health insurance market, with prices being cut by all three providers, better benefits being offered, and better value for consumers? The signs are good that this is exactly what could be on offer.

VHI, the State's largest health insurer, has said it 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.

Health insurance expert Dermot Goode says that the fact that VHI was again cutting prices meant it is ramping up the price war it started
Health insurance expert Dermot Goode says that the fact that VHI was again cutting prices meant it is ramping up the price war it started

This is a game-changer as the price reductions are set to spark an all-out price war. VHI's rivals have to respond.

Hot on the heels of this, the third-largest player in the market, Irish Life Health, announced price reductions on a selection of plans.

However, it insisted these reductions were not in response to the VHI moves.

And the Irish Life Health cuts are not straightforward. Two of the plans where price cuts where announced last week have already gone up this year.

The insurer now says the same plans are being reduced in price in March, but they will still be more expensive than they were as recently as last month. The insurer denies hoodwinking customers.

Nevertheless, the fact that we are seeing price cuts may mean we have entered a new era of proper competition.

Health insurance expert Dermot Goode says that the fact that VHI was again cutting prices meant it is ramping up the price war it started. Among the benefits being added to VHI 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. Health Plus 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.

All of this is great news for anyone renewing from March. The only risk is that Government meddles by hiking the levy it imposes on all policies, or by upping public hospital charges.

For now the news is good.

And the message is clear: do not renew without making sure you can't get a cheaper, or better plan, than the one you are on now.

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