VHI to cut health insurance costs - and give refund
Health insurer Vhi is to cut its prices for the third time in less than a year. It comes after it reported a 33pc jump in profits.
The insurer will reduce premiums by an average of 2pc in July on 54 plans, a move that will save a typical family €50.
And those who have already renewed will get the benefit of the summer price cut - something not seen in the market before.
The State-owned insurer has already reduced the cost of some plans last November, and again in March.
Cumulatively, the reductions will see some families saving up to €200 on the annual cost of cover, according to health insurance experts.
The cuts mean the One Plan Family, one of Vhi's most popular schemes, will be €500 cheaper for a family of two adults and two children from July, compared with last year.
It comes after it reported a profit of €75.3m for last year, up from €56.4m the previous year.
Vhi said it was benefiting from better claims management.
Insured consumers have begun to realise that they do not need to sign forms allowing public hospitals to charge them for public treatment in State hospitals, Vhi said.
Public hospitals have been accused of double charging, as those receiving treatment as public patients are asked to sign forms entitling the hospitals to charge their insurer for their treatment even though they are receiving the same treatment as those without cover.
Vhi boss John O'Dwyer said: "In the past year there has been a significant reduction in claims from our customers in public hospitals, many of whom are now choosing to be treated as public patients when receiving care in a public hospital.
"This is helping to bring down the cost of health insurance for all."
Vhi was also benefiting from a rise in membership to 1.075 million people, and was anxious to return some of the higher net surplus to customers.
He said the majority of customers will benefit from the cumulative impact of the price reductions in July rather than having to wait for their renewal date.
Health insurance expert Dermot Goode said the July reductions will see customers' premiums that are paid monthly adjusted downwards from that month.
Those who pay annually are likely to get a refund in the post.
He said the public had realised they do not need to consent to be charged in a public hospital if they are only getting public hospital treatment.
"Consumers are not signing the claims forms in public hospitals. This shows consumer pressure can work. If consumers act responsibly by refusing to be charged for something they are not getting, it pays dividends in terms of premium costs."
He said the latest premium reductions were a major challenge to Laya Healthcare and Irish Life Health.
Mr Goode, of TotalHealthCover.ie, said the price reductions come after Vhi improved the benefits on some plans, and reduced the excesses - the amount the consumer has to pay before making a claim.