Private health insurance
It’s sometimes called private medical insurance or ‘PMI’: it’s a policy that offers prompt access to treatment, through a network of hospitals, when you or one of your family are feeling unwell.
How does private health insurance work?
A provider looks at your health and lifestyle to work out how much the policy will cost. In general, the healthier you are, the lower your premiums are likely to be; the older or less healthy you are (if you’re a smoker perhaps, or have a history of heart disease in your family for example), the more the premiums are likely to be.
When you pay your premiums, the policy provider promises to pay for the costs involved with getting private treatment – as long as those costs are covered by the terms and conditions of the policy. These policies give you the peace of mind that you’ll get the treatment you need at the time you need it.
But because the costs involved in medical treatment can be very expensive, it is very important that you understand what you’re covered and not covered for before you take out the policy. The terms and conditions can be complicated. If you aren’t sure what you’re covered for, ask the provider to explain it to you in full.
Private diagnostic insurance
This is a policy that’s usually much less expensive than a full health insurance policy, because it only covers the costs involved in finding out what’s wrong (giving you a diagnosis).
Who provides these policies?
Insurance providers underwrite these policies. They have to calculate the risks involved and make sure the policy will live up to your expectations – but you can buy health insurance policies through all kinds of organisations and businesses.
Questions to ask yourself
- Can you afford the premiums? They’re likely to go up as you get older.
- Are there costs that aren’t covered by the policy? It’s important to know what these are in advance.
- Are there any limits on how much cover you’ll have?
- Will you have to wait at all, before you can claim for anything?
- Do you have to pay up front and then claim costs back or is everything paid directly by the insurance company?
- Do you need the policy, or does your company have a scheme you could ask about? Some companies run a scheme for senior members of staff only, but there’s sometimes a discount if you take a private policy out from the same provider.
And what do health insurance policies cover?
Every policy is different. Everything that’s covered will be explained clearly in the insurance policy sales brochures and the terms and conditions. If you’re not sure about something – ask.