Subscriber OnlyYour Money

About 130,000 people affected as VHI scraps some of its most popular plans

Over one in 10 VHI customers affected as health insurance expert Dermot Goode said ‘surprise move’ will be of ‘particular concern’ to older members

About 130,000 VHI members will be forced to change their healthcare cover, with the insurer set to axe some of its most popular plans next month.

The plans VHI is to withdraw are its Health Plus Extra plan (€3,400 per adult); Health Plus Access (€2,574 per adult); Health Plus Excess (€2,471 per adult); and Health Access (€2,276 per adult).

The plans will no longer be available to new members or renewals from May 1st.

A spokeswoman for the Health Insurance Authority (HIA) said there are about 130,000 people – more than one in 10 of all VHI customers – across the four plans being closed.


The change will impact VHI members who have remained on these plans – formerly know as Plan B, Plan B Options and Plan B Excess – over many years. VHI is Ireland’s largest health insurance provider with 1.1 million customers.

Health insurance expert Dermot Goode of said the “surprise move” will be of “particular concern” to older members who renewed on these plans to retain full cover for major orthopaedic and ophthalmic procedures.

“They will have no option now but to shop around for alternative cover from their next renewal date,” he said.

Many of those currently on the plans being taken off the market are likely to be signed up through employer group schemes, Mr Goode said. “They also need to review their options as a matter of urgency.

“Whilst these plans offer good cover, some have been on the market for nearly 30 years and are therefore very expensive,” he said. “In the last 12 months alone, customers on these plans have been hit with significant price hikes.”

A spokeswoman for VHI said the aim of the move was to deliver “a simplified product structure and enhanced offerings to better meet member’s needs”.

“This means closing some of our older plans and moving some of our members on to different plans that better meet their healthcare needs,” she said, adding this would be done on a “renewal-by-renewal basis”.

“Currently there are more than 350 plans on the market, and we believe that the number of plans might be overwhelming consumers and making it more difficult to shop around,” the spokeswoman for the HIA said. “For this reason, we encourage plan closures, and we welcome the news that VHI have decided to close four of their plans.”

The State-owned health insurer slipped into the red last year as the cost of claims jumped by 18 per cent and it experienced higher labour and energy costs and a strong increase in demand for healthcare services. This resulted in the company recording a net deficit or loss of €43.4 million, compared with a net surplus or profit of €34.3 million in 2022.

The company’s annual results show that it recorded a 3.2 per cent increase in premium income last year and saw its customer base climb by more than 37,000.

The insurer raised premium prices twice last year, by an average of over 12 per cent. It announced a further 7 per cent average rise in premiums last month.

Mr Goode said there are similar alternatives available from VHI, such as their Advanced Care product range, but he warned members to be careful they are not transferred to more expensive options.

He said many VHI members affected by the withdrawal of these plans “may be inclined to just accept the alternative” offered by VHI. “We would urge all members not to autorenew on whatever is offered by VHI, but to take this opportunity to check all options across the market first,” he said.

“They may be shocked to find they can source equivalent cover at a lower cost. For those fearful of change, seek help from a trusted friend or family member or engage a qualified broker to do this review work for you.

In terms of engaging with VHI or the other insurers, he said it is important to always contact the company by phone to discuss options as all calls are recorded. “Do this well in advance of your renewal to give yourself plenty of time,” he said. “Decide on your budget for health cover before you contact them and challenge them to find you the closest equivalent plan that fits this budget. If you’re talking to a new health insurer, disclose everything to them: current plan, medical history, planned treatments, etc.

“Whatever alternatives they offer, have them explain exactly how these compare to your existing cover so you understand all plan differentials. If you’re still not sure or if you’re confused by all the options, seek independent advice before making your final decision.”

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter