In the UK, the majority of individuals are entitled to free NHS healthcare. Some of them, however, choose to take out some form of Private Health Insurance. This is sometimes referred to as private medical insurance (PMI). This should cover the costs they would incur if they opted to be treated by a private healthcare provider rather than the NHS. One of the biggest reasons they might choose to do this is because of the length of waiting lists on the NHS.
Let’s take a look at what you can expect from PMI if you choose to take out a policy.
How does private health insurance work?
When you opt for a PMI policy, what you get from the policy will depend on the type of policy you take out. It will pay some or all of your medical bills if you opt for private treatment. You have a choice over the level of care that you get, when and how it is provided. Private treatment, particularly for serious conditions, is very expensive without PMI.
What is covered?
Basic PMI policies will usually cover the costs of the majority of in-patient treatment. This includes things like tests, surgery and day-care surgery. Some of them will cover outpatient treatments including consultants and specialists. They may also pay you a small amount for every night you must spend in an NHS hospital.
Some things are not covered, including:
- Organ transplants
- Normal pregnancy and childbirth costs
- Pre-existing medical conditions
- Some chronic illnesses
- Cosmetic surgery, where it is to improve the appearance
Some policies may cover sports injuries, depression and mental health issues. However, not all of them do.
How do I choose a PMI provider?
For many people, PMI is offered as part of the benefits package with their job. In this instance it isn’t possible to choose the provider. If this is not an option, then you can arrange PMI through an insurer. Or, via a financial adviser, bank or building society, broker or even a retailer like a supermarket.
It is important to remember that PMI is not cheap, and the premiums will go up every year. Some companies will allow you to add existing conditions to the policy. However, this will also bump up the premium that you pay.
Chronic illnesses, those that are incurable, such as diabetes and some cancers, will not be covered by a policy.
Some waiting lists may be shorter with PMI. For example, treatments such as physiotherapy. You may also be able to choose your hospital and surgeon for any treatment. This is something which is certainly not an option on the NHS. You will be able to get the scans you want. Again these are sometimes not available on the NHS or can be cancelled. You can also use your PMI to reduce your waiting time for treatment if the NHS waiting time is six weeks.
There are positives and negatives to taking out PMI, so it is important to weigh up all the pros and cons before deciding if it is the right path for you.