Britain takes justifiable pride in its National Health Service (NHS) – it continues to be by far the largest health care provider in the country and does so with a service that is free of charge at the point of delivery.
Nevertheless it is widely recognised – not least by the political parties vying for the popular vote – that the NHS is under severe pressure. Funding, waiting times and access to health care facilities as and when the patient demands has led to a growth in the number of people turning to private medical insurance.
There are considerable variations in the scope and nature of medical insurance plans, but all are designed to offer the customer faster access to better facilities than might be obtained through the NHS alone.
This means that that the quicker you are treated, the sooner you will be back to full health – great if you are in pain or off sick from work.
Who might this product be suitable for?
Private medical insurance (PMI) is enjoyed by two principal groups:
those for whom it is provided as part of the overall remuneration package by an employer; and
those who choose to purchase it privately, for themselves and their family.
If you are in receipt of the benefits of a company scheme, of course, the particular levels and the nature of the cover have already been determined on your behalf; if you are choosing PMI off your own bat, however, you have a number of important choice to make about the level of cover you want and the price you are prepared to pay for it.
What does it typically cover?
As with many varieties of insurance, private medical insurance comes in a wide range of packages which offer different levels of cover.
Nevertheless, it is important to keep in mind that, as a general principle, PMI is designed for the treatment of essentially curable, relatively short-term injuries and illnesses – so-called acute conditions.
Chronic conditions, requiring longer term treatment, may sometimes be excluded from the provisions of private medical insurance, with a general acceptance that such a division between private and publicly funded health care is desirable – nearly one if three NHS patients, for example, also have private medical insurance, according to the website Wikipedia.
As policy features and terms vary, it is important to understand exactly the level of cover you are getting.
Examples of services typically covered by private medical insurance might include:
your hospital accommodation and nursing care;
surgery – whether as a day patient or inpatient;
tests that are you required to take as an impatient; and
a cash payment in compensation for any of these if you choose to use HNS facilities rather than those provided by your private medical insurer (typically offered to ease demand for those services provided directly by the insurer).
Is there anything I need to know?
Perhaps the single most critical factor to bear in mind when arranging any form of private medical insurance is the importance of declaring any pre-existing condition or illness.
These count as the kind of “material facts” which insurers are entitled to know when assessing the risks you represent as the insured. It is important, therefore, that you are open and honest about any medical history since the insurer may be entitled to reject any claim for which such information may have been relevant.
There continues to be a positive and valuable partnership between the NHS and private health care insurers. By taking advantage of the protection and services offered by private medical insurance, you might secure the peace of mind in the knowledge that you are able to enjoy the best of both worlds.