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Health Insurance in the UK

  • Published: 2009-03-18 (Revised/Updated 2012-09-21) : Author: Gareth Owen
  • Synopsis: For many people the biggest advantage of paying for Private Medical Insurance is being able to avoid long queues on the NHS.

Main Document

For many people, the biggest advantage of paying for Private Medical Insurance is being able to avoid long queues on the NHS - but is that the only reason for investing your hard-earned cash in private medical insurance

You can never predict a medical emergency or illness in family. Whenever these things happen, you are thrown into a bewildering situation and left to running from pillar to post to organize proper medical treatment on one hand and simultaneously arrange funds and other resources to defray the costs on the other.

It's a real challenge, and the trauma for the attending members is nothing less compared to what the patient is going through.

Despite the best efforts of the Government, the NHS is always an over-strained facility. No doubt, it has the best doctors, the best diagnostic systems, and the best operating equipments but its resources are far too short than that of actual requirement. It can certainly be the best place to handle emergencies, but when it comes to planned medical treatment, it's high time to consider other viable alternatives. What most patient families look out for is a systematic and holistic approach to treatment that involves less worries and anxiety. In those critical times, they want quick access to treatment, easy hospitalization benefits, provision for specialized treatment and host of other similar facilities for the patient. As a one-stop solution to all these issues, Private Health Insurance in the UK is increasingly becoming a very popular alternative.

Private Health Insurance comes in different packages. It can be subscribed by anybody from an individual to a corporate body. It can have limited to full coverage, including coverage for specialized treatment options. There are generally two bases of underwriting a health insurance policy. In the Moratorium coverage plan, medical conditions that you have had during the last 3 to 5 years are excluded from cover normally for the first two consecutive years of the policy. In the Full Medical History Underwriting plan, the Insurer considers your medical history normally within five years and offers coverage, sometimes on special terms and conditions on case-to-case basis. No other facility offers this sort of personalized package. Some illnesses, pregnancy related ailments and self-inflicted conditions do not come under the purview of Private Health Insurance plans.

For many people, the biggest advantage of paying for Private Medical Insurance is being able to avoid long queues on the NHS - but is that the only reason for investing your hard-earned cash in private medical insurance

The fact is that there are a number of good reasons that more and more companies are offering PMI as one of their most popular job benefits. Here are some of the advantages of paying for private health insurance - plus some drawbacks to watch for and suggestions to make it more affordable.

Avoid the queue - and so much more.

The NHS is notorious for long waiting periods before you can get recommended medical treatment. Private health insurance can allow you to schedule your treatments sooner, and at more convenient times. But there's more to PMI than just queue-jumping. In addition, when you opt for PMI, you may find that more conditions and treatments will be covered than under the NHS, the treatment facilities are more comfortable (and more private), and the meals in hospital are better. Depending on the company and the cover that you choose, you may even have coverage for alternative health treatments like chiropractors and acupuncture.

And the bad news is...

Private medical insurance is notorious for being expensive. Again, the expense depends upon the cover and the insurance provider that you choose. There are many ways to cut costs, though. From shopping around to taking a higher excess, to choosing to share costs or agreeing to conditions that save the insurance company money, you can take some control over how much you actually pay for private medical insurance. Some policies, for instance, allow you to choose between being covered under NHS or using your PMI for certain conditions.

Taking control of your healthcare costs

One popular option is to agree that you'll take NHS treatment as long as the queue for treatment is less than a specified number of weeks. If the estimated wait time exceeds the specified waiting period, you can schedule treatment through your PMI instead. Another option is to limit your health care choices to a specified list of providers and/or hospitals. You can even cut your premium by agreeing to be treated in a private NHS room rather than in a private hospital. Your treatment costs to the insurance company are less, so you pay lower premiums.

Cutting costs through group PMI

The most well-known type of group cover is PMI through your employer. Many more employers are offering to pay part of your premium for private health insurance as part of an enticing job benefit package. Getting PMI through your job is one of the easiest ways to slash your premiums. Even when your employer doesn't cover part of the cost, you can often get a substantial saving on PMI just because you're a member of a group with bargaining power.

The same principle applies to fraternal organizations and other organizations to which you may belong. Check with any clubs or organizations to find out if they've worked out any special premium reduction offers with private health insurers.

Read the small print

No matter what you choose, do be certain to read the fine print of your insurance contract. It will spell out specifically what is covered and what is not covered. Health insurers are not benevolent organizations - they're in the business to make money, so you can be sure that they've stacked the odds in their favor. Common exclusions are for pre-existing conditions or those that are diagnosed within a short waiting period after your initial acceptance.

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