What is private health insurance?
Private health insurance is designed to pay the cost of private medical care, covering everything from diagnosis to treatment, including the cost of accommodation at a private hospital should the need to stay overnight or longer be required.
Without health insurance, the choices can be grim; either months or even years of waiting for treatment on the NHS, or a hefty bill of up to tens of thousands of pounds for uninsured private treatment. With further cuts to the NHS expected due to past overspending, these waiting lists are set to get longer. Private treatment is generally quick and is often arranged when the patient wants or needs it. The NHS guarantees a consultancy within 18 weeks of an appointment being made; private diagnosis and treatment can be over and done with before the 18 weeks is over.
How much does private health insurance cost?
The cost can depend greatly, and generally depends on factors similar to those considered when a life insurance policy is written, such as level of cover, health and lifestyle. Overall, the healthier and younger you are, the lower the cost of private health insurance will be.
Similar to car insurance, no-claims discounts are available to those who are covered for a significant time but do not claim on the policy, and these can greatly reduce the cost of cover. A subsequent claim on the policy, however, will increase the premium – there may be cases where the increase to the premium is greater following a claim than the cost of paying for the treatment outright yourself.
Generally, there are three cover levels offered by private health insurers, ranging from lowest to highest: budget, where the cover level and choice of hospital is limited; standard, which provides better in-patient cover but not, for example, private ambulance costs; and comprehensive, which covers everything associated with your private medical treatment.
What is covered?
Generally, non-emergency procedures such as operations to repair broken bones, chemotherapy and other short-term illness and injury conditions are covered.
Private medical insurance is not a total cover solution – it will not cover absolutely everything you can think of involving medical treatment. General exclusions are for accident and emergency, which is exclusively an NHS responsibility, illness which is a direct result of substance abuse and cosmetic surgery.
Insurers may make exclusions similar to those made when writing a life insurance policy. These tend to be pre-existing conditions, for example someone who already has heart trouble will find their insurer will not pay for the cost of treatment for heart surgery.
Back to private health insurance.