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VHI admits half-price plans sold to some customers

STATE-owned health insurer the VHI has admitted that some people are paying just half the price for the same policy.

All policies offered by health insurers have to be available to everyone at the same price, under the law. But it has emerged that some people with the same plan are paying up to €640 more than others.

Customers of the health insurer who contacted this newspaper have accused the VHI of discriminating between those whose health cover is paid by their employer, and families who pay out of the household budget.

A plan called PMI 06 11 costs €1,279 per adult. But readers of the Irish Independent have pointed out that some people are paying just €640 per adult.

This plan is a so-called corporate plan, which is marketed to companies but has to be made available to anyone who asks for it. Corporate plans tend to have better benefits and are often better value than consumer plans.

The VHI confirmed this plan was reduced to €640 on a special 50pc discount offer for 31 days. This offer is now over, for this particular plan.

The VHI also defended the fact that some companies that buy health cover for their staff have got policies for 50pc cheaper than they are available to individuals.

The plan in question offers full cover for private hospitals and other benefits available with most family health insurance plans.

Asked why the price and the benefits of plan PMI 06 11 had changed at various times, a spokeswoman for the company said promotional offers were now a feature of the private health insurance market and take place at different times of the year, across different products.

"This is indicative of a competitive marketplace," the spokeswoman said.

"All of VHI Healthcare's products are available to any customer wishing to purchase them."

She insisted that like all insurers it must notify the Health Insurance Authority (HIA) 10 working days in advance of any changes being implemented and that these changes are then published on the HIA website.

Health insurance expert Dermot Goode, of Healthinsurancesavings.ie, said that Aviva, VHI and Quinn all offer corporate plan special offers.

"If there is an offer on a corporate plan, consumers won't be told about it. But if you phone and ask for it by name, they have to give it to you."

Customers are advised to check the Health Insurance Authority website www.hia.ie for promotional offers and discounts.

The VHI, which insures 1.24m people, is expected to announce a price hike of at least 15pc for those renewing or switching to it this year.

However, the price rise could be much higher after government plans to charge insurers if someone with health insurance uses an A&E, or any other facility in a public hospital.

Irish Independent