Private medical insurance

Keeping your health on track

When life throws you an unexpected challenge, fast diagnosis and treatment are what matter most, along with genuine help, support and understanding. 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.

Many private medical facilities are now accepting new referrals. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there may still be some disruptions to when and where private services are delivered.

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. One of the main benefits of private medical insurance is the speed of access to medical treatment.

Even if you have access to free NHS care, private medical insurance can help you feel more in control of when, how and where you’re treated. That’s faster access to the diagnosis, treatment and aftercare you need, and the comfort of an en-suite room. Think of it as the care you need, without the wait.

Concentrate on getting better sooner
Diagnosis and treatment can be dealt with almost immediately, reducing the anxiety of the unknown and allowing you to concentrate on getting better sooner. With many health experts predicting that patients are set to experience poorer care and even longer waiting times, many people are turning to private health care for that extra peace of mind.

If you don’t already have it 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.

Choice in the level of care
Most UK residents are entitled to free healthcare from the NHS. One of the main reasons people take out private health insurance is to avoid long NHS waiting times. Health insurance pays all – or some – of your medical bills if you’re treated privately. It gives you a choice in the level of care you get and how and when it is provided.

You don’t have to take out private medical insurance – but if you don’t want to use the NHS, you might find it hard to pay 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 does it cover?
Like all insurance, the cover you receive from private medical insurance depends on the policy you buy. Basic private medical insurance usually covers the costs of most in-patient treatments (tests and surgery) and day-care 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 that covers mental health, depression and sports injuries but these aren’t always covered.

Cover usually includes:
– The cost of hospital admission
– Diagnostic tests, such as MRI and CT scans
– Surgery
– 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

There are two main types of private medical insurance policy:
Indemnity policies, which 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.

Cash plan policies, which 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 inpatient stay in an NHS hospital, or dental or optical treatment. These may not be included under an indemnity policy.

Both indemnity and cash plan policies can have additional benefits.

For example:
– 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

Another variation is a six-week plan, which covers the costs of private medical treatment when NHS waiting times for that treatment are likely to be more than six weeks.

International private medical insurance policies (IPMI) provide medical treatment costs cover to expatriates living overseas.

Main benefits of private medical insurance are:
1. Shorter waiting times for treatment on the NHS
2. Better facilities
3. Faster diagnosis
4. Choose from a range of private facilities
5. Choose a convenient time for appointments and treatments

Whilst the NHS does an amazing job, queues are inevitable for all but the most acute medical emergencies, and private medical insurance policies are often taken to avoid those queues in the future.

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