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What is Private Health Insurance?

Should you fall ill, or suspect you are ill, Private Health Insurance provides you with the means to meet the cost of diagnosis, treatment and aftercare. It is not designed to replace all the services offered by the NHS and in many ways should be seen as complimentary to state care.

All policies vary; most insurers offer a range of policies starting with the cheapest which offers a more basic level of cover to more expensive plans which are more comprehensive. However in general terms cover can be provided to meet the cost of:

  • Diagnosis, tests, treatment and aftercare
  • Consultations at private hospitals or clinics
  • Access to diagnostic technology

Treatment is generally carried out in a private hospital; each insurer will have a different network of hospitals for you to choose from, or in a private room / wing of an NHS hospital.

Why do I need it?

Despite increased investment into the NHS over recent years, there are still a number of reasons why you might want to take out Private Health Insurance.

Firstly it can mean a reduced waiting time for diagnosis and treatment allowing you to bypass NHS waiting lists. Secondly it provides access to a range of private hospitals for you to choose from. Thirdly you will benefit from a private room and finally, some insurers offer treatments not currently available on the NHS.

What are the drawbacks to Private Health Insurance?

As with any insurance, there are always drawbacks and things you need to be aware of. Some examples with regard to Private Health Insurance are:

  • It is unlikely you will be covered for existing medical conditions
  • Not all policies will cover every illness, care should be taken when choosing a policy to ensure that the cover you select is appropriate for your needs
  • Private Health Insurance policies can be extremely complex and working out exactly what you are and are not covered for is not always easy. Good quality independent financial advice can help here
  • The more comprehensive you want your cover to be the more costly the premiums
  • The insurer can decide to increase your premiums in the future

Who can be covered?

You can take out cover just for yourself and your partner; some policies also allow you to include children.

Once you have decided on the right insurer for you, an application will need to be submitted. This will then be reviewed by an Underwriter.

There are two types of underwriting; these are known as Full Underwriting and Moratorium Underwriting.

Full Underwriting means you will have to tell the insurer about previous illnesses, diagnosis and treatments. The insurer will then decide which illnesses they will not cover – typically pre-existing illnesses will not be covered.

Moratorium Underwriting offers the possibility of pre-existing conditions being covered after a period of time. The insurer does not require medical information, but excludes illnesses you have suffered from for a number of years prior to the application. If these illnesses do not reoccur and additional treatment is therefore not needed in the years after the policy has been started, then the insurer may decide to cover them in the future.

Some insurers offer both types of underwriting and will give you the choice of which route you wish to follow. Other insurers only offer one underwriting option.

Whichever underwriting option you choose, once the process has been completed the insurer will confirm the exact premiums you will pay and whether or not any illnesses will be excluded.

How much will it cost?

The cost of your Private Health Insurance will depend on a number of factors, including:

  • The insurer you choose
  • Whether you opt for a basic plan or more comprehensive cover
  • The age and gender of the person or people insured
  • Your smoking status
  • Your state of health

The cost will vary from insurer to insurer, however cover can generally be found to meet most budgets.

Benefits of using an Independent Financial Adviser

Private Health Insurance is perhaps the most complex of all personal insurance policies.

There are a number of different insurers and each have a range of plans offering different types of cover. It is important to make sure you get the cover you need and also understand what you are and are not covered for.

An IFA can help you choose the insurer and type of plan which meets your needs and also work with you to make sure the premiums are affordable.

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