'Savings of up to €400' - Health insurance price war as premiums on 42 plans slashed
A FULLY-fledged price war has broken out among health insurance providers, which could save families nearly €400 a year.
Laya is cutting the prices on 22 plans, with Irish Life Health reducing the premium rates on 20 plans.
It comes just months after the Vhi kicked off a new competitive phase with a string of price reductions.
Laya is reducing prices by an average of 6pc. It said this will mean savings of up to €374 for a family of two adults and two children.
The price-cutting moves are in stark contrast to the hiking of premiums over the last three years, which had put a massive squeeze on family finances.
The reductions are set to apply from this month and from the start of January, the period when the majority of people are due to renew their cover.
Irish Life Health is reducing the cost of some plans by up to 17pc.
This will see its corporate Health Plan 20 reduce in cost by €550 for a family of four.
However, it is putting up the price of 75 plans, but these increases are average just 2pc. The insurer is also freezing prices on 25 plans.
Insurance expert Dermot Goode said the decreases showed health insurers were now prepared to compete hard for customers.
"The reductions are not across all plans, but this is as close to a health insurance price war that we have seen for years.
"Now is the time for consumers to start shopping around to bag these deals while they can," Mr Goode, of TotalHealthCover.ie, said.
But he warned that consumers need to be extra cautious.
Some plans have reduced in price, but many plans may still be more expensive than they were last year.
State-owned Vhi kicked off the price cutting. It shocked the market when it was revealed in this newspaper in October that it had cut the price on 21 of its plans, including some of its older schemes. It also slashed prices on its corporate plans, regarded as better value.
Laya responded with reductions on eight plans, including corporate plans, which take effect this month.
Cork-based Laya is now cutting prices on another 14 plans from January 1.
For a family of two adults and two children there will be savings of €374 on the Essential Connect Family scheme.
Laya is also offering free cover for children on its Essential Connect Family and Essential Health 300 schemes, effective from January 1.
"We know affordability is front of mind for our members, and that's why we're delighted to announce these price reductions that will bring great savings on some of our most popular schemes," Laya managing director Dónal Clancy said.
Irish Life Health said that among the plans it was cutting prices on was Select Plus. The cost goes down from €22.60 per adult and €90 per child, which will mean an annual saving of €225 for a family of four.
Managing director Jim Dowdall said he was trying to keep price rises to a minimum, but was forced to raise rates due to "the inequitable public hospital bed legislation where people with health insurance are charged a higher rate".