Factors to consider when choosing private medical insurance

Our health matters more than anything, so it’s understandable that many of us feel anxious when we read endless stories about the financial pressures the NHS is currently facing.

a  female doctor stands next to a senior patient in her waiting room and casually chats to her about her details . In the background a nurse chats to woman with her digital tablet , and a male patient stands at the reception desk and booking an appointment .

The health service is currently deciding which hospital departments will have to shut according to latest news reports, with Accident and Emergency units among those which will be closed down and centralised.

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Although the NHS does its very best despite the growing financial crisis it faces, unfortunately there can sometimes be longs delays when waiting for treatment and operations, which is why many people opt to take out private medical insurance (PMI).  For example, waiting time targets for NHS cancer referrals weren’t met again in June, which means targets have now been missed for two and a half years.

PMI can provide valuable peace of mind that if you do fall ill you will be seen quickly by a specialist, and you can often choose which hospital you receive treatment at, meaning you can pick a location close to home or family.

When buying cover, however, always compare several different quotes, as premiums and the levels of cover offered can vary widely depending on which provider you go to. Check whether your employer offers first too, as this can be one of the most cost-effective ways to buy PMI.

It’s also important to read the small print carefully of any policy you are considering, as some conditions and treatments may be excluded. For example, policies won’t usually cover any new unproven treatment or illnesses which are considered ‘natural’ ailments, such as insomnia. Any serious health issues you’ve had in the past are also unlikely to be covered and will be noted on your policy as ‘pre-existing’ medical conditions.

Remember as well that the older you are, the more expensive premiums will be, so you may need to explore ways you can bring the cost of cover down. One way you can do this is to consider raising the excess, which is the portion of any claim you must pay yourself, but make sure it remains affordable. Another way to reduce premiums is to consider opting for no outpatient treatment, or outpatient treatment capped at a certain limit.

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Alternatively, you could think about choosing what is known as the ‘six week wait’ option. This means you agree to be treated by the NHS if they offer you treatment within this timeframe, but if the waiting list is longer than six weeks, you will be entitled to receive private treatment straight away. Finally, you can choose to reduce the list of hospitals where you receive treatment, or agree to stick to private wings of NHS hospitals, as this will also result in lower premiums.