THE battle to sign up young people to health insurance schemes has intensified after Laya became the second insurer in days to launch new cut-price plans.
It comes after VHI said it was introducing a €449 a year scheme.
Now Laya is to bring out a €430 basic plan, the Irish Independent has learned.
Up to 60,000 people are expected to join the market before May 1, when new penalties apply to those over the age of 34 taking out cover for the first time.
Known as lifetime community rating, the penalty will be 2pc on the policy price for every year the person is over the age of 34.
This means a 50-year-old taking out cover for the first time will be hit with a 32pc charge on top of the premium price.
In a bid to capture some of those taking out health insurance for the first time, Laya is set to launch Assure Vitality at a cost of €430 a year.
The plan will be launched on March 1, and covers treatment in all public hospitals, but there is no cover for private hospitals and clinics. The cover in public hospitals if for semi-private rooms, with a warning that a shortfall may apply.
Other gaps in the cover include specified orthopaedic procedures, certain cardiac treatments and optical benefits.
But Assure Vitality does offer a CareOnCall service where members can get advice from a doctor, nurse or physio.
Laya boss Donal Clancy insisted the new plan was the cheapest in the market, and said it would incentivise younger people to take up insurance. "We are committed to the principle of lifetime community rating and making it a success," he said.
Laya is the second largest health insurance provider, with almost 500,000 customers. Before Christmas it bucked the trend of ever-rising premiums by announcing a price cut on some plans and a price freeze on three new entry-level policies.
Laya, which has been taken over by international insurer AIG, said it was reducing the costs on 12 of its policies, with decreases of up to 19pc.
Just two days ago, State-owned VHI Healthcare said it was to launch two low-cost plans in March.
VHI Start Plan and Start Plan 250 will cost from €449 per adult a year.
The plans are cheap because cover is excluded from all private hospitals, with some larger public hospitals also not covered.