At MediCompare, we offer a simple way to compare medical insurance in the UK. We work with the leading insurers in the country to help your find the best policies and prices. Simply enter your details and one of our team members will be in touch with you very shortly.
What is Private Medical Insurance?
Private medical insurance is a specific type of insurance covering surgical and medical expenses for an individual, or anyone covered under the specific plan. It comes in two forms:
- Covering expenses from the individual patient and paid to the care provider (clinic, hospital etc)
- Reimburses any costs to the patient
Medical insurance does not make you automatically covered for everything and it generally covers short-term conditions that can be remedied quickly by treatment, surgery and medical tests. It is important to compare medical insurance because every provider has different plans and policies available to suit your requirements.
When using specific terminology you would refer to the ‘insured’ as the ‘owner’ of any health insurance coverage that has been taken out. You would refer to the clinic, doctor, laboratory or pharmacy as the ‘provider’.
How Many People Have Medical Insurance in the UK?
- Out of 26.7m households in the UK, 1.9 million households have private cover.
- 5.1m people in the UK have private insurance with £7.4m paid out in claims every day.
- £206m was paid out in 2013 in emergency medical treatment, equivalent to £4m a week.
11% of the UK population have some level of private medical insurance, according to the “Kings Fund Private Health Care Market Report 2014”;
What is Covered?
Although plans vary between insurers, the average policies tend to cover the following:
- Exclusive drugs – If your treatment needs drugs that are unavailable on the NHS, but have been approved by National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. then they could be covered.
- Hospital stay and specific nursing care – In most policies you can expect your stay in hospital to be covered, along with any nursing care that is needed during your visit.
- Inpatient care – Inpatient treatment is when you need a hospital bed for the day, or overnight. This will also include tests and surgery.
- Outpatient care – Outpatient care is when you do not need to spend a night at the hospital, or will not need a hospital bed. In this case you might only being seeing a consultant, or having diagnostics. If you have a cheaper policy then the amount of outpatient care available in your plan could be capped. Under cheaper policies the type of outpatient procedures available could also be limited.
- Extra cover – Depending on the insurer, cover for psychiatric treatment varies. It is difficult for providers as it is not always clear whether it falls under illnesses that are curable (which is short-term and therefore covered) or if it is long-term care (which is not covered). Depending on the type of comprehensive cover (or premium cover) you take out you might have psychiatric treatment covered.
- Some policies also offer:
- Private ambulances
- Nursing home care
- 24-hour help line
- Complementary therapies
- Private hotel rooms
- Accommodation of a relative or child is in hospital.
The cheapest plans will not cover all these treatments and some may only be available at a premium.
What is Not Included in Private Medical Insurance?
Medical insurance generally covers curable (short-term) procedures and does not cover ongoing (long-term) procedures such as asthma, kidney dialysis, non-essential cosmetic surgery and drug abuse.
What is Private Diagnostic Insurance?
Private diagnostic insurance only covers the ‘diagnostic’, or in other words, it will pay to find out what is wrong with you, and nothing further. After this you will still have to pay for the cost of any necessary ongoing treatment.
Do I Need Cover If My Company Pays For It?
Private medical insurance can help to ‘top-up’ the difference between what your corporate insurance provides, and what you might personally need. Through a business health insurance plan you may not be covered for everything that is important to you. Taking a close look at what your company provides will allow you to determine if you need anything extra. You can top-up your corporate plan to include:
- Dental insurance
- Maternity Insurance
- Optical Insurance
- Extreme sports (skydiving, bungee jumping)
- Global travel insurance
I have NHS cover – Why Go Private?
The NHS has certain guidelines about what is covered, how long it takes to be seen, and the types of facilities available for treatment. Having private cover means that you can get faster access to treatment, choose the consultants you want and at a location nearer to your home. You may also get access to drugs and medication that is not available on the NHS. We all appreciate our health and our time – so getting quick access to medical treatment and practitioners can be vital to achieve a good quality of life.
Can I Still Use The NHS With Private Cover?
Yes, certainly. Sometimes you can have a procedure that is not urgent or more affordable and your insurance provider will recommend that at no extra cost. However, private medical insurance generally goes above and beyond what the NHS can offer in terms of waiting lists and access to the nearest clinics.
What Are The Different Types Coverage?
Health insurance generally falls in to two main categories.
- Fully underwritten insurance – insurers ask for a full medical history.
- Moratorium insurance – limited information about medical history.
A fully underwritten policy will generally give you wider coverage, but you will likely pay more for this benefit. A moratorium policy will be cheaper but will come with complete, or ‘blanket’ exclusions on many pre-existing conditions. So if you had any previous conditions or things that you were being treatment for (e.g physiotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy), this will be excluded in your new policy, which can be annoying.
In addition to these two categories, many providers are now offering mix and match policies to make sure the policy is tailored to what you or your family insurance needs. On top of inpatient care these modular policies help you save money in places that you don’t need coverage, and help bolster coverage where you do.
Some providers offer specialist policies including:
- Over a certain age bracket (e.g. 55 and above, or over-65s)
- If the waiting list for the specific treatment on the NHS is longer than 4-6 weeks.
- A specific focus on one ailment or disease, e.g. leukemia.
Are There Other Options Available?
The NHS offers many free treatment options, but if they don’t cover everything you need you can look at critical illness cover, where specific illnesses are covered, or healthcare cashplans where you pay a monthly stipend and can be reimbursed for a number of basic treatments.