Health insurance policy holders are being urged to do their homework and shop around as peak renewal period for policies approaches.

It is estimated that over a million members will be renewing their policies in the coming months, with the bulk renewing in January.

And most will face price increases as all of the insurers announced premium hikes in the last year.

Laya and Irish Life increased prices or signalled impending increases in recent weeks.

There has been speculation that VHI may also increase prices in the new year.

VHI announced a surprise rebate of €75 for members in recent days and €25 for children included on policies. That would amount to a €200 rebate for a family of two adults and two children.

All of the insurers returned a percentage of premiums to customers earlier this year while the private hospitals were temporarily taken over by the state to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.

The latest VHI rebate will be paid to customers who are members on January 23 next.

Dermot Goode of said, while welcome and a nice surprise, VHI policy holders should not just stay to get the benefit of the rebate without doing their homework.

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"This is not a discount. It's not a reduction. It's a once off bonus, and while welcome, people who have not shopped around could be missing out on five times the bonus in savings.

"The message for members is to shop around. You're still going to get bonus if you're a member of VHI, so if you can get a better plan with VHI that might save €500 to €700 for family you can bag the savings and bag the bonus."