Do You Need Health Cover?
Take a look at our superb Health Insurance Guide today, full of helpful information, tricks and money saving tips.
Health insurance in the UK works as a ‘supplement’ to service and treatments available on the NHS. Private heath insurance is designed to work along the NHS and not replace it.
This means you may be able to avoid waiting lists, see your preferred consultant and pick the hospital of your choice. However health insurance generally won’t replace ‘essential’ services such as GPs and A&E. Private hospitals in Britain are rarely used for emergency situations.
Typically UK medical insurance will cover the cost of treatment by a private hospital or consultant, this can include both injuries and illnesses.
What Does Health Insurance Cover?
You will find that different insurance companies will provide different ‘levels of cover’. The level of cover you will receive will be based upon the price you pay.
In the UK health plans range depending on budgets, from basic cover to wider policies, which are more extensive in nature. Obviously the further up the scale you go, the higher price you will pay. However if your budget allows, having a broader scope to treat any illnesses and injuries is obviously more comforting for your own piece of mind.
If you have health insurance and you need further medical assistance, your GP will give you the option of an NHS consultant or a private consultant. Generally NHS waiting times will be longer, so having another option is always a good thing.
Typically you want to find a comprehensive health insurance policy, these types of policies tend to cost more money, however they cover a lot more conditions and treatment options.
For example most comprehensive policies will include cover for:
- In-Patient – an in-patient would normally be ‘hospitalised’. The time frame can range depending on the treatment needed.
- Day-Patient - Typically a day patient may visit a hospital on a routine basis and these appointments may last for more than half the day. However the patient is never ‘hospitalised’, they go home once the appointment is finished.
- Outpatient - An outpatient will also visit a hospital or clinic that doesn’t require an ‘overnight stay’. Generally outpatients can be for a range of treatments including consultations, scans, diagnosis and so on.
- Cancer Cover – You will need to read all of the small print regarding cancer cover, generally chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery tend to be included. However other more advanced treatments such as transplants may not. As each insurance provider is different always read the documentation before purchasing.
- Physiotherapy – This can be great if your consultant or doctor thinks your body needs additional treatment. Sometimes physiotherapy isn’t covered by the NHS unless there’s an underlining medical need. This means if your legs or knees get sore from dancing or playing sports, you won’t generally be covered without private insurance.
- Psychiatric – The NHS has come along way on mental health conditions, however work still needs to be done. Psychiatric treatments can include a range of different conditions from depression, schizophrenia, anxiety and more.
- Dental Care – Private medical plans can be great for dental care. The NHS typically only carries out treatments if there’s a medical need. That means if you want veneers or your teeth straightening for that perfect smile, the NHS generally will not cover dental treatments for cosmetic purposes.
- Optical Treatment – A lot of people are visiting the opticians more frequently these days, after all, computers and technology rules our lives. If you find yourself needing glasses or needing eye surgery then private cover may keep costs lower.
- Maternity – Private medical insurance can include a range of treatment options related to pregnancy, including both before and after a child is born.
Most basic insurance policies will include cover for In-Patient, Day-Patient and Outpatient treatments as standard.
However, some policies may not cover other forms of treatments such as optical care, dental health, cancer care, physiotherapy and so on. Remember to read all documentation and conditions before agreeing or signing to any policy.
Types of Medical Insurance Policy
In the UK there’s different types of medical insurance available, these can include:
- Individual Health Insurance – This type of policy will only cover an individual. Great if your partner or other members of your family are not interested in obtaining cover for themselves. If you’re planning on purchasing an individual plan and are in good health you may see lower premiums than you expected.
- Family Health Insurance – Most mainstream providers will offer protection for the whole family. This can be great for a wide range of people, as a family policy gives you the ‘piece of mind’ that you could get fast treatment should a loved one require it.
- Child Health Cover – These types of policies are available for children only. Usually under the age of 16.
- Joint Heath Plans – Similar to ‘multi-car’ policies, a joint health plan is perfect for a couple. This will enable the best level of treatment for both yourself and your partner if needed.
Advantages of Health Insurance in the UK
In Britain most people get health insurance to avoid NHS waiting times and get access to a wider range of consultants and treatments.
For example, let’s say you need an ear operation; the average time to see an ENT specialist at a NHS hospital is around 12 weeks. After this initial appointment you would then have to wait for the operation date itself. On the contrary at a private hospital you could be seen in a matter of days, depending on the demand. Then booked in for the operation as soon as possible.
Equally if treated at a private hospital you’re more likely to get a private en-suite room rather than a bed in an open ward on the NHS.
However that’s not all, most people also love the fact that private cover enables them to get access to wider range of treatments and medication, which may not be available through the National Health Service.
What isn’t included with Private Medical Cover?
Usually all health insurance in Britain will not cover ‘emergency’ treatment. This is typically provided at the nearest NHS hospital.
In addition most policies will also not include cover for ‘pre-existing medical conditions’. What is and isn’t defined, as a condition will vary depending on the insurance company you select. However generally speaking conditions such as cerebral palsy, heart conditions and epilepsy may not be covered.
You need to read the policy documents in detail before you sign any agreement. You need to see how it applies to your circumstances. NEVER assume you will be covered, as this isn’t always the case.
What can Affect Your Health Premium?
Sometimes a range of elements can affect your medical insurance policy, take a look below of the things to watch out for:
- Age – Unfortunately your age will have the main bearing on how much your premiums will cost. It’s quite easy to see that the older we are, the more likely a claim will be made; thus premiums increase. Equally you should also note that some providers might not accept people over or under a specific age. This varies depending on the insurance company, so shop around for the best quote.
- Excess – The higher excess you state, the cheaper your health insurance will be. Remember to always keep within your budget, there’s no point in opting for a higher excess if you can’t pay it when the time comes.
- Smoking – If you’re a regular smoker you may find it harder to obtain a health policy in the UK. This is because there’s more ‘chance’ of a smoker getting a smoke related condition such as throat or lung cancer. Increasingly this isn’t limited to standard tobacco smokers, some insurers are also concerned about e-cigarettes, nicotine patches, cigars, pipes and so on.
- Medical History – If you already have health issues, you may find it harder to get insurance. It’s not uncommon that some providers will ask for a ‘health declaration’. This means they may ask your GP for a full medical report. This can include all of your medical history as well as a report on your current medical condition.
- Your Preferences – Generally speaking, the wider range of hospitals you include in your policy, the more expensive it will most likely be. This means you can save money by selecting only a handful of locations. It can be hard to figure out which hospitals to select as some institutions may have specialised skills. A good idea is to ask your GP for advice if you’re having trouble deciding which locations are right for you.
Things to Consider
- Cooling-off Period - For your own piece of mind, you should find that you will have a ‘cooling-off’ period after you have agreed to a policy. In the UK this tends to range from 14 to 28 days. Usually if you decide during the cooling-off period that the insurance policy isn’t right for you, you can cancel the agreement and should get a full refund on anything you have already paid.
Original Publication: 31 May 2017
Last Updated: 11 August 2017