It is the time of year when thousands of health insurance policies come up for renewal. There have been price reductions on a number of plans in recent times, which means there are savings to be found.

Dermot Goode, of, said it was the busiest time of the year with 1 million people due to renew their policies in the next three months with 400,000 renewing in January alone. "Only around 20% of people actively shop around. Older people tend to auto-renew. Insurance companies love them. They are missing out on anything from €500 to €1,000 per adult. The savings are considerable."

The Minister for Health announced that there would be no increase in the health insurance levy in 2018, but Dermot Goode said anyone renewing in the next few months had yet to be hit with the last increase. "The levy accounts for around 30% of the premium. It went up by 10% in April, but that increase still hasn't fully washed through. It's welcome news that premiums may not rise in 2018, but those renewing in January still have to be hit with last April's increase," he explained.

Mr Goode said the practice of asking private patients to sign wavers in public hospitals to allow them to be charged as private patients is still widespread. "If they find out you have insurance, they get you to sign a waver and you'll be charged €813 per night instead of €80. That's why rates are going up by 5% each year. Unless you get a private room, and wait until you're in that private room, do not sign that form. If you do, you'll get noting extra," he warned.

Commenting on a report in the Irish Times this morning that the VHI was looking at buying into private hospitals, Dermot Goode said it would represent a significant shift in the insurer's business model, although it had been mooted in the past. "We saw them acquiring the Swiftcare clinics earlier this year. Buying into private hospitals is not something the VHI will do in the short term, but they are intent on it. The reason is they would have full control over their costs. In the UK, insurance companies run and own their own model of private hospitals. But if the VHI pursue that strategy, the other insurers are likely to follow suit," he concluded.

MORNING BRIEFS - Richard Moat is to step down as chief executive of Eir when the deal on a majority takeover of the telecoms company is complete, which is expected to be in the next six months. It was announced this morning that a consortium led by NJJ Telecom alongside French operator, Iliad, is to acquire almost two thirds of the telecoms company in a deal valuing the enterprise at around €3.5 billion. Shares in Illiad are down around 3% this morning.

*** The UK Competition and Markets Authority has cleared Tesco's takeover of wholesaler, Booker. The CMA said the two did not compete head-to-head in most of their activities. Booker supplies shops operating under the Premier, Londis and Budgens brands in the UK.

*** Wall Street was closed by the time the US Senate voted through the Republican sponsored tax bill this morning. But stocks actually fell after the initial vote in the House of Representatives. Much of the anticipation had been priced in by traders in the weeks leading up to the vote. On Monday night, markets surged to all time highs with the Nasdaq briefly passing the 7,000 mark for the first time.

*** Three out of five hotel and guesthouse owners say their business has been impacted by the hit to sterling during 2017, according to the Irish Hotels Federation. That 60% figure is up from 45% this time last year which would have been about six months after the Brexit vote. The most recent CSO figures show that UK visitor numbers are down 6% year on year.

*** There has been a sharp correction in the price of Bitcoin overnight. One is worth around $16,500 - down almost a fifth from the peak it hit three days ago. But it is only about three weeks since Bitcoin passed $10,000 for the first time.