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About one in 10 adults in the UK has private medical insurance, according to research by MoneySupermarket.
But, with a typical 12 month policy costing £1,093*, it’s important to check out the alternatives before you splash out.
To make sure you know what you’re signing up for, and to weigh-up whether you really need it, we’ve rounded up five questions you should ask yourself before you take out a health insurance policy…
Do I really need it?
One of the benefits of health insurance — also known as private medical insurance — is that you will get treatment immediately, without joining an NHS waiting list. It may also give you access to certain drugs or treatments that aren’t available on the NHS and the extra comfort of private hospital care, and it will cover some or all of the cost of private medical treatment.
The cost your insurer will cover you for will depend on your policy type, and premiums tend to increase every year. Most policies won’t cover pre-existing conditions or chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, epilepsy and arthritis.
Am I already covered by my workplace?
Your employer may have a healthcare scheme in place as one of the benefits it offers for employees.
Health cover from a workplace is usually provided through wither a healthcare cash plan or private medical insurance. A healthcare cash plan provides a cash payment, normally for a fixed sum, to put towards a private healthcare service.
Routine dental checks and eye checks are usually covered by healthcare cash plans, too. Ask your HR department for more information.
Can I still receive NHS care if I have health insurance?
Yes. You’re still entitled to free health care from the NHS, even if you choose to pay for additional private care.
However, you can only have one healthcare team supervising treatment for a specific condition. So if you need a cataract operation, for example, you would need to opt to have both the operation and lens implants with either the NHS or a private provider — you cannot mix and match services.
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Where can I find a suitable policy?
It’s important to scrutinise every aspect of your policy to understand what’s covered and what’s not. Look out for fixed-sum excess charges and add-ons, such as dental or maternity care, and check whether you’ll be covered for the cost of hospital stays.
If you’re over 50, health insurance can be harder to find and is usually more expensive. However, if you’re looking to insure yourself and a partner, a joint policy can cost you £365 less per year than two individual policies, according to MoneySupermarket*.
If you’re unsure about which type f policy is best for you, or you have any pre-existing medical conditions you wish to discuss further, contact a health insurance broker. You can find one through the Association of Medical Insurers and Intermediaries. A broker can help you find a policy that’s tailored to your needs, let you know about exclusions and put you in touch with insurers directly. RELATED STORY
How much is it?
The cost of your health insurance policy will depend on a number of factors, including your age and risk of developing health problems.
A private consultation alone can cost around £200, according to Compare the Market, and an MRI scan can cost up to £1,500.
There are ways to cut costs, however, and it’s worth working out the level of cover you actually need. ‘A full medical plan covers all costs for diagnosis and all treatment, but if you’re happy with the NHS diagnosing the issue, then you could take a treatment-only plan’ says Kamran Altaf of Compare the Market. ‘This could save you as much as 40%’.
Kamran also advises checking whether a policy offers voluntary excess (typically between £100 and £5,000), which can get you a discount of 10% or more on the rest of your cover.
*Source: Data from ActiveQuote for MoneySupermarket, November 2019.
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