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Health insurance

Health insurance – also known as private medical insurance – comes with so many questions. So, if you’re thinking about it, here are some considerations to bear in mind. 

What is health insurance?

It’s an insurance policy designed to cover the cost of private medical treatment. It will cover you for ‘acute conditions’ (things that can be cured), such as a hip replacement or having a hernia removed. You can buy different types of policies that offer various levels of cover, the cost of which will be reflected in your premium.

When you compare health insurance, you’ll initially be asked questions about yourself, such as what your job is, your age, where you live and whether you smoke. Once you’ve made an application, insurance providers may ask you for more details, including whether or not you have any pre-existing conditions. They might also ask general health and wellbeing questions in order to build up a picture of how healthy your lifestyle is and what the likelihood is of you making a claim.

What policies are available and what’s covered?

Policies range from basic through to comprehensive and they typically cover any required in-patient treatment that you might need, such as surgery; they usually cover the cost of your hospital stay too.

Other policies will also include out-patient treatment, which covers the expense of seeing specialists and consultants, as well as the cost of undergoing tests. In some cases, you’ll also be given the option of tailoring the policy so that it suits the care you might need as well as your budget. Some extras that you could bolt on to your policy include dental and eye care, physiotherapy and homeopathy.

Private medical insurance is largely designed to complement NHS care and won’t always cover you for pre-existing, or chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and arthritis. If these affect you, then you should always make sure you know what your policy covers and that you’re happy with any exclusions. And you’ll still need to use the NHS for accident and emergency.

What are the benefits of private medical insurance?

Private medical insurance gives you quicker access to consultants, tests and treatment. You also have greater control over which hospital you go to, and when. In some instances, you’ll also have access to treatment and drugs that aren’t widely available on the NHS.

Private hospitals can also make your stay more comfortable with better amenities, such as a TV and en-suite rooms. Because you can often choose when and where you’re treated, access to private healthcare can be invaluable if you’re self-employed or have a job where timing is an important factor.

What else should I consider with health insurance?

You’ll need to decide what level of cover you want. A comprehensive policy will cover you for most eventualities without a cost limit. On the other hand, less expensive policies will set a cap on how much you can claim for, and these caps will vary according to the treatment involved.

Some insurance providers will also have a tiered pricing level and certain hospitals – for example, those within London – might bump up the cost of your premium. If this is the case, then it’s worth considering how far you’re realistically willing to travel in order to receive treatment.

You might also find other incentives to buy health insurance, such as price reductions on gym memberships as well as discounts on other types of insurance with the same provider.

If you decide on a very basic policy, take the time to read any exclusions and make sure that you’re comfortable with what’s included – you could find the list of covered out-patient treatment very limited, or it might not be included at all.

The cost of health insurance is likely to increase as you get older, so don’t be surprised if your premium rises after each birthday. This is partly due to inflation, but it also has to cover the cost of advances in technology and testing. Plus, as you get older, there is sadly more chance of you needing to make a claim.

How can I cut the cost of private medical insurance?

Just like your car insurance, you can reduce the cost of your healthcare cover by choosing to pay a bigger excess – but make sure it’s realistic and affordable because you’ll need to pay it before your claim can be processed.

You could also lower your premium by opting for less out-patient cover, as well as agreeing to a reduced hospital list. This means that you won’t be able to choose from as many hospitals for treatment as you might with a standard policy. Some insurance providers also offer a ‘six-week option’, which means if the NHS can treat you within six weeks, then you won’t be able to make a claim.

You might also find that you’re offered a no claims discount – so you’ll be rewarded with a lower premium for every year you don’t make a claim. Some insurance providers will also discount your premium, or offer you cashback, if you can show that you’re generally fit and healthy.

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In the UK, we’re lucky to have the NHS, but there’s no denying that access to private care through health insurance can be reassuring. It’s especially useful if you’re self-employed and need to be treated quickly and at a hospital that’s convenient for you.

If you’re still not sure about what policy might suit you best, our colleagues at Assured Futures can help. They’re experts and they understand that private medical insurance can be confusing – so give them a call on 0808 1411334. Alternatively, start comparing health insurance today.

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