Nothing is more important to you than your health and the health of your family. If you or your loved ones were to experience worrying symptoms, private medical insurance can offer reassurance and control at a difficult time.
Private medical insurance (often also referred to as health insurance) gives you access to private healthcare for conditions that develop after your policy has started. Private cover will typically give you access to increased medical resources, reduced consultant or hospital waiting times, and a wider range of specialist treatments, as well as a private room.
Private medical insurance: speedy access
One of the main benefits of private medical insurance is the speed of access to medical treatment. As a result of the pandemic, this speed could be crucial to your ongoing health. NHS England now have more than 1.85 million people waiting for routine hospital treatment, the highest number since records began. Urgent cancer referrals have dropped by up to 43% for cancer, leading to, as Macmillan Cancer support says, “An alarming backlog of undiagnosed cancer.” With the ever-present threat of a second wave of coronavirus, these figures could get worse before they get better.
Private medical insurance: costs of your treatment
With private medical insurance, you pay a monthly premium that covers all or some of the costs for your treatment. You are covered for conditions that begin after joining which can be cured. These are known as ‘acute conditions’. Terms and conditions do vary, as does level of cover, so it’s important to shop around for the best deal for you and your state of health.
Faster diagnosis, less stress
Where you will be treated will vary depending on where you live, and the type of treatment you need. You could be treated in a private hospital, health centre or the private section of an NHS hospital. Diagnosis and treatment can be dealt with almost immediately, reducing the anxiety of the unknown and allowing you to concentrate on getting better sooner. Many people are turning to private health care for that extra peace of mind alone.
Employee health benefits
Some companies offer private medical insurance as part of their employees’ benefit package. If you don’t have private health insurance as part of your employee benefits package, and you can afford to pay the premiums, you might decide it’s worth paying extra to have more choice over your care. Equally, you might be able to ‘upgrade’ your level of cover for a few pounds extra each week - ask your employer for details.
NHS or private - or both
Most UK residents are entitled to free healthcare from the NHS, but many people want to avoid those long NHS waiting times. Health insurance gives you a choice in the level of care you get and how and when it is provided. It will also pay all – or some – of your medical bills if you’re treated privately.
You don’t have to take out private medical insurance if you are eligible to free NHS healthcare. However, if you don’t want to use the NHS, you might find it hard to pay the fees charged for private treatment without insurance, especially for serious conditions.
It may also be possible, under private medical insurance, to access the latest drugs and treatments licensed by the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), which aren’t routinely available on the NHS (outpatient drugs are not covered).
What level of private health insurance cover do I need?
Like all insurance, the cover you receive from private medical insurance depends on the policy you buy.
Cover usually includes:
- The cost of hospital admission
- Diagnostic tests, such as MRI and CT scans
- The costs of seeing a consultant
- Hospital accommodation and nursing care
- Cancer drugs - some polices will include drugs that are not available on the NHS
Cover may also include:
- Outpatient consultations
- Mental health treatment options
- Complementary therapies
- Physiotherapy and chiropody
Basic private medical insurance usually covers the costs of most in-patient treatments (tests and surgery) and daycare surgery. Some policies extend to out-patient treatments (such as specialists and consultants) and might pay you a small fixed amount for each night you spend in an NHS hospital. You might also be able to choose a policy which covers mental health, depression and sports injuries, but these aren’t always covered.
Main types of private medical insurance
There are two main types of private medical insurance policy:
1. Indemnity policies
These policies meet the costs of having private medical treatment for an acute illness or injury on a short-term basis. This could include a private room in a hospital, surgeons’ and other specialists’ fees, outpatient treatment like physiotherapy, and daycare treatment including surgical and diagnostic procedures.
2. Cash plan policies
Cash plan policies provide a lump sum benefit payment in certain situations. Generally, the consumer will pay a monthly premium in return for cover for up to 100% of costs for treatment like an in-patient stay in an NHS hospital, or dental or optical treatment. These may not be included under an indemnity policy.
Private medical insurance: additional / optional benefits
Both indemnity and cash plan policies can have additional benefits, including:
- Cover for partners and/or children
- One-to-one telephone support for cancer and heart patients
- Patient health checks and helplines
- Access to complementary therapies and psychiatric treatment
- Dental and optical treatment
- Treatment at home for intravenous therapies like chemotherapy
Specialist private medical insurance policies
You may be able to find a six-week private medical insurance plan. This covers the costs of private medical treatment when NHS waiting times for that treatment are likely to be more than six weeks. Given that this is happening more and more, policies like these may become more difficult to find.
International private medical insurance policies (IPMI) provide medical treatment costs cover to expatriates living overseas. There are also various specialist policies available, such as those for over-55s or ones that focus on particular diseases.
Nothing is more important to you than your health and the health of your family. If you or your loved ones were to experience worrying symptoms, private medical insurance offers reassurance and control at a difficult time.