What you need to know about medical insurance
1. Private medical insurance is not a necessity but a luxury, thanks to the NHS. But if you want speedy treatment and your own private room, then it could be worth it – particularly if your employer offers a subsidised scheme.
2. You can self-insure by saving what you’d pay in premiums into an account and then, if you want a private procedure, use that money to pay for it. Private hospitals can offer ‘cash’ prices for treatment. The downside is that if you have a serious condition, you’ll run out of money soon – even a knee replacement can cost £4,000 or more.
3. Private medical insurance doesn’t cover everything. It’s there to pay for acute conditions – such as cancer – not for chronic conditions (those which aren’t curable) such as diabetes. And it won’t cover normal pregnancy or cosmetic treatments.
4. Pre-existing conditions won’t be usually be covered, or policies might include a moratorium – not paying for symptoms/conditions which existed for a set number of years before the plan was taken out and for a time after too.
5. There are many different health policies with varying limits so use a comparison site such as www.confused.com. You can get (expensive) all-inclusive plans which cover all in and outpatient treatment or ones which cut costs.
6. Cheaper policies may exclude private in or outpatient treatment, limit you to certain hospitals or offer private care only if NHS waiting lists are of a certain length. You can check what they currently are at www.nhs.uk.
7. Premiums on private health insurance aren’t fixed and can go up each year. The older you get, the more you will pay.
8. You can cut costs by agreeing to pay the first part of a bill – the more you agree to pay, the lower the premiums.
9. Cash plans aren’t medical insurance. They make payments for treatments such as dental costs and if you need to stay overnight in an NHS hospital.
10. Critical illness insurance is not private medical insurance. It pays out a lump sum if you’re diagnosed with a serious condition such as cancer. Often it’s sold as an added extra to life insurance.
- For an independent guide to all types of health cover, go to www.which.co.uk/money/insurance/guides/health-insurance/health-insurance-the-basics.
- Or browse the insurance industry’s manual at www.abi.org.uk/Insurance-and-savings/Topics-and-issues/Health-insurance.
- Check out our top tips for life cover here.
Last updated 22 August 2017