VHI customers facing massive hikes in their annual health insurance bills may be able to save hundreds of euro a year by switching plans.

Two thirds of customers will see a rise of 15 per cent in their premium from next month and the average annual premium will rise by €331. 

But older customers on the Plan B and Plan B Option will face an increase of up to 45 per cent from February 1.

Around 29 per cent of VHI's customers are on these plans and on February 1, the price of Plan B health insurance will go up €317 to €1,224 - the equivalent of €26 a month.

Those on the Plan B Option will see the cost of insurance go up from €985.86 to €1,429.50.

But customers can switch plans - the nearest equivalent to the Plan B and Plan B Options is the Teachers Plan which is over €200 a year cheaper.

The Health Insurance Authority, which regulates the sector, has a comprehensive price comparison area on its site. It has provided us with nine comparisons for VHI customers - all the links are at the end of this article. 

The HIA points out that customers can switch insurers. Rival insurance companies cannot refuse to cover customers if they are merely switching provider.

There are also plenty of savings to be had by switching the insurance package with the same provider.

By law, health insurers are obliged to offer any package in their system to any customer. This means doctors can avail of a teachers package if they want, a self-employed person can avail of a company package or even a teachers package if they wished and so on.

The company plan or corporate plan is often cheaper than the regular package and it is worth enquiring about. 

In the case of Quinn, the company plan is €262 cheaper a year an the Essential Plus, which is its most popular plan. 

Plan B customers can save over €200

The nearest equivalent for those on Plan B or Plan B Option is the Teachers Plan. 

At current prices, the Teachers Plan is €772 a year compared to €906.99 for Plan B and €986 for Plan B Option. 

This means savings of up to €234 a year. 

Some cover may be slightly different, but check the HIA comparisons links below or phone the HIA or the VHI to find out which suits your needs. 

VHI says the Plan B or Plan B Option are no longer its most popular package.

It says its best value package for families is its One+ Plan where children are insured for free.

That currently costs €1,440 a year compared to the €2,208.34 cost of the Parents and Kids plan, which is VHI's most popular family package.

That represents a saving of almost €600 a year.

There are over 200 packages in the market and the HIA offers a phone service and an online service which will compare prices of every package.

The HIA has provided RTE with a series of links with pre-set comparisons for VHI customers. These links are at the end of this article.

More information 

RTE Money: How I saved hundreds on my health insurance

Health Insurance Authority home page

Health Insurance Authority price comparison

Pre-set comparisons of VHI and other insurers' packages provided by the Health Insurance Authority

Plan A Option

VHI Plan A Option v VHI First Plan Starter and Quinn Essential Starter

VHI Plan A Option v Aviva Hospital Plan Level 1 and Quinn Company Health

Plan B Options

VHI Plan B Options v VHI Teachers Plan v Quinn Company Health Plus

VHI Plan B Options v VHI Company Plan Extra v Aviva Hospital Plan Level 2

There are many options at this level and there are a lot of plans with an in-patient excess here which are also possible alternative to the B Excess plan:

VHI Plan B Excess v VHI Company Plan Extra v Quinn Company Health Plus with Excess

VHI Company Plan Extra Excess v VHI Company Plan v Aviva Business Plan Hospital

Plan C

VHI Plan C v Aviva 1Level 3 v Quinn Company Care Premium

Plan D

VHI Plan D v Quinn HealthManager Silver v Aviva 1Level 4

VHI Plan E v Aviva 1Level5 v Quinn Company Care Gold

RTE Programme Links: Listen again

RTE Liveline with Joe Duffy: Listeners react to VHI increases

RTE Today with Pat Kenny: Irish Times' Conor Pope on VHI increases