Advertising for the VHI’s HealthPlus Platinum Plan on their website stated that one of the benefits attached to the plan was cover for:
“New advanced treatments in areas such as cardiac and cancer care.”
A television advertisement entitled “Carmel’s Story” illustrated a VHI Healthcare member’s experience with VHI Healthcare when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She told her story as follows:
“I found a lump on my breast, got seen to within a week. I had a mammogram, followed two hours later by a biopsy. Whirlwind doesn’t go there. I had breast cancer. Rang VHI and the girl said absolutely, you’re definitely covered. I had a mastectomy. The standard of care I received was second to none. We’re all trying to cut corners here, there and everywhere. VHI, it’s the one corner I’ll never cut. It’s like a security blanket. Life’s great. It revolves around my boys. My name is Carmel and I’m glad I’m with VHI Healthcare.”
The onscreen text referred to the fact that “Carmel is on Teachers Plan”.
The complainant said that her oncologist had recommended an advanced cancer treatment which she assumed would be covered under her health insurance policy as the advertisement had stated that advance treatments in cancer were included. This was not the case, however, and she was informed that the treatment recommended to her was not covered under her plan.
The complainant said that the impression created by the advertisement was that treatment recommended for breast cancer would be covered. She said to liken VHI cover to ‘a security blanket’ was misleading as this had not been her experience on discovering that she was not covered for the treatment recommended by her oncologist.
The advertisers said that as a company they are a heavily regulated entity and they go out of their way to ensure that their marketing communications are not misleading to their customers.
In relation to the specific plan advertised on their website and the accompanying text “New advanced treatments in areas such as cardiac and cancer care” referenced by the complainant, the advertisers said that while they covered a wide range of the most advanced treatments, all treatments were subject to there being robust evidence of their effectiveness and safety. The advertisers provided a list of criteria to the Executive which they had to be satisfied with when assessing whether or not to provide cover for new and advanced treatments.
The advertisers said that their television advertisement entitled “Carmel’s Story” had been running since 2013. It was a testimonial by a VHI customer, Carmel, and was told 100% in her own words. Carmel mentioned the overall care she had received on discovering she had breast cancer, and specifically a mammogram, biopsy and mastectomy. No other treatments had been referenced. The onscreen text had also clearly stated that Carmel was on a “Teachers Plan”.
Complaint not upheld.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response. The Committee noted that the advertisers had specified on their website that they covered new advanced treatments in both cardiac and cancer care. They also noted that the advertisers had not stated that they covered ‘all’ advanced treatments.
In relation to the television advertisement “Carmel’s Story”, the Committee considered that it was evident, as Carmel’s story unfolded, the exact nature of the treatments she had received and the plan which she subscribed to, which provided her with cover for
her detailed treatments. In the circumstances the Committee did not consider the marketing communications to be in breach of the Code.
No further action required.