Private medical insurance in the UK is designed to work in tandem with NHS services. However, investing in extra protection for you and your loved ones may be a decision you wish to take. Boing this may help you ensure that you receive a prompt service and gain access to the latest technologies and medicines the health industry has to offer.
Read on to find out more about the types of Private Medical Insurance and how they may benefit you and your loved ones.
What is Private Medical Insurance?
Private medical insurance (also known as PMI) is where you pay monthly premiums in exchange for access to private medical treatment in times of sickness. Those with a private medical plan can be referred to specialist treatment centres quickly. They can also access private rooms, their choice of consultants (locality permitting) and drugs and treatments that are not subsidised by the NHS.
With the majority of insurers, your premiums will be calculated based on your age, health and lifestyle choices (i.e. if you are a smoker or overweight).
Your payments towards your insurance premiums can then be used to pay for your private medical care. When choosing a policy, you should also have some idea of how much cover you would need, as this figure will also be used to calculate your premiums.
Please Note: Individual policies will explain which services will be covered and which will not. Therefore, it is vital that you read the fine print of your policy, to ensure that you know what your money will be insuring you and your family for.
What Can be Provided with Private Medical Insurance?
Again, this will vary across service providers. Some things you may be able to find an insurance plan for includes;
- Inpatient Treatment – Visits to the hospital where you stay overnight and receive diagnostic tests, treatments/surgeries.
- At Home Nursing Care – This is not a feature of all policies, but some may offer payments towards at home nursing care.
- Dental/Optical Care – For regular check-ups with your optician and dentist, you may be able to find a private insurance policy that can help you pay for these every-day health checks.
- Outpatient Treatment – These may include a limit on the amount you can claim. But some policies will offer cover for out-patient treatments. i.e. consultations and diagnostic tests.
- The Latest Technologies and Drugs – Many private healthcare providers offer you access to the latest medical innovations, which may not be available on the NHS.
- Complementary Therapies – You can find plans that will cover alternative therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractic treatments, podiatry, physiotherapy etc.
- Overseas Cover – Some policies will allow you to receive private treatment abroad.
- Accident Cover – Some policies will cover you in times of accident and injury.
- Cash Back – Some health cash plans offer less comprehensive cover, but will allow you to claim some money back for the treatments and consultations you pay for first.
- Cancer Care - With some policies you can opt to add cover for instances of cancer. However, please note, some insurers may still place restrictions on the types and stages which will be insurable.
Please note: In many cases, private medical insurance offers private treatments for acute conditions i.e. illnesses that can be treated and cured within a limited amount of time.
What Types of Private Medical Insurance Are Available?
There are two main types of private healthcare insurance;
- Underwritten Plans – These plans will involve the use of an insurance underwriter who will work out your premium costs upon you filling out a medical questionnaire or undergoing a medical examination. These answers will also determine what you may or may not be covered for with the plan. This is typically the case with those who have pre-existing illnesses.
- Moratorium Plans – These policies are common with Corporate Health Insurance Plans because you do not have to submit as many details on your health history. These policies exclude cover for medical conditions you may have had in the last few years.
These categories can further be separated to create several types of medical insurance plans that can be useful for different instances. These include;
- Individual Private Medical Insurance – These policies cover one person’s treatment through the private healthcare system.
- Family Private Health Insurance – Additional cover for your family can also be included within your medical insurance scheme.
- Corporate Medical Insurance – This is taken out by an employer to offer cover to all employees who may need it. It is taken out to incentivise staff retention and get employees back into work as soon as possible after illness.
- International/Expatriate Private Health Insurance - These are designed for British nationals living abroad, or for those who do not have a permanent residence in the UK. They may also be known as ‘Overseas Medical Insurance’.
- Critical Illness Insurance – In times of serious health difficulties, these plans are designed to offer a lump-sum on payout. After that, your policy will end.
- Income Protection Insurance – This covers your earnings in times of prolonged sickness where you are unable to work. They pay a monthly income based on a certain percentage of your normal monthly earnings.
What are the Benefits of Private Healthcare Insurance?
- Reduced Waiting Times – With some private healthcare providers you can opt out of the NHS waiting list and seek private treatment. You may, however, still need to be referred for treatment by an NHS GP.
- Increased Choice – With these plans, you can choose where you are treated and your own surgeon. This will depend on where you live and the nature of the treatment you need.
- Private Rooms – To avoid stays on a busy ward, some health insurance policies give you the luxury of having your own room during your hospital stay. Private hospitals also tend to have more flexible visiting hours. These little details can make you feel more relaxed when you are sick, and therefore help you recover quicker.
- Exclusive Drugs – You may be able to access the latest drugs and medical innovations, which could be revolutionary to your recovery and wellbeing. Often new drugs and treatments take years to become available on the NHS. With a private policy, you can access these treatments quicker. Further, some drugs are simply too expensive to offer on the NHS, or they are not approved for inclusion by regulatory healthcare bodies in the UK.
- Sports Injuries – If you regularly take part in sports or other hobbies where you are at increased risk of injury, having some private medical insurance in place can give you easier access to services like physiotherapy. You can also find cover for complementary therapies that may not be available to NHS patients.
- Extra Benefits – Some plans will offer subsidised or free gym membership, to encourage their customers to maintain healthy lifestyles.
- Excess Options – If you would like to find a way to cut your premium payments, some insurers will let you increase the amount of excess you pay towards your own treatment.
What are the Pitfalls of Private Medical Insurance?
- Free NHS Treatment – It may be a disadvantage for some to pay for healthcare treatments that may be just as readily available for free on the NHS.
- Locality – If you live in a remote area, the services available to private patients might be more limited. It is therefore always wise to check the availability of services in your local area, before seeking out a private medical plan.
- Medical Services Not Covered – Some insurers will exclude those with a pre-existing medical condition. However, others will accept people with pre-existing health problems. It is worth noting that if you can be insured, you may have to pay more towards your monthly premiums in exchange for the adequate cover you need. Other conditions and treatments that are not commonly featured in many private health cover plans include;
- Organ transplants
- Cosmetic Surgery
- Pregnancy and Childbirth
- Injuries caused by sports or otherwise ‘dangerous’ pastimes
- Mental Health problemsPre-Existing Conditions – Many insurers will only cover you for illnesses that occur after the policy has been taken out. This means, in many cases, you may find it difficult to find insurance for chronic illnesses. Or, you may be able to find cover for conditions like diabetes. However, the premiums are likely to be more expensive.
- Not for A&E – In many cases, your private medical insurer will not cover for instances where you need to go to Accident and Emergency for treatment.
- Costs Increase Over Time – With private medical insurance, in most cases, premiums are not fixed. Therefore, private healthcare may get more expensive for you as you get older. Often your policy may be reviewed every year.
What are the Alternatives to Private Medical Insurance?
- Critical Illness Insurance – These policies offer protection to people who face a serious medical condition, such as a heart attack or stroke. They are designed to payout a lump-sum in exchange for you monthly premium payments. Once you have made a claim, your policy ends.
- Healthcare Cash Plans – These plans work by offering you money back when you pay for a listed medical treatment. For example, you can claim back money on your dentist and optician’s appointments, in exchange for you paying a monthly premium.
- NHS – UK residents can receive free healthcare from the NHS. However, insurance is designed to work with existing NHS offerings, to give consumers more flexibility in their treatments.
- Savings – As an alternative method for paying for treatments, especially if you do need to make many claims, you may be able to use your savings to pay for the medical services you need.
- Income Protection Insurance – If an illness takes you out of work for a while, this insurance is designed to supplement your normal income until you can get back to work. This cover might be useful to you, when taken in conjunction with a private healthcare plan.
If you would like to find out more about Private Medical Insurance and how a plan could benefit you and your family’s health and wellbeing, get in touch with an independent private medical insurance broker. They can offer you a free, personalised, no-obligation quote.