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Private medical insurance explained

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Although the UK has a universal, free healthcare service, the desire to avoid lengthy waiting lists, fears over superbugs and concerns over the quality of care has led many to contemplate taking out private medical insurance.

Private medical insurance can cut waiting times for diagnostic procedures and operations. While private healthcare cannot cover every medical condition, standard plans will cover essential diagnostic tests, plus treatments, including surgery, consultations, nursing and hospital care, either in an NHS or private hospital.

There are a vast range of different plans on offer and it is possible to tailor policies specifically to individual needs. Policies will vary on a number of points:

– Policies can be fully underwritten – which requires a full medical history – or moratorium, which impose blanket exclusions on pre-existing conditions.

– The excess – the amount individuals must pay before the medical insurer kicks in will vary.

– The range of hospitals and doctors – some policies will allow more flexibility on the hospitals and doctors used.

– The number of conditions covered – it is possible to get cover only for certain conditions, or only for diagnostic tests, depending on what you need.

– Your age, level of fitness and pre-existing conditions

All of these elements will affect the premium you pay. Premiums will also rise with medical costs generally and will usually increase with age. Some policies will also include a ‘no-claims bonus’ as would be the case with car insurance.

Private medical care is available at relatively low cost and can provide individuals with peace of mind, knowing that there is a safety net for their family’s health. The key message is to shop around and find the right cover for you.

ABI Recommendations on selecting the right plan

• compare the benefits of each insurer
• compare any cover limits or monetary amounts
• consider your own health requirements
• ask questions about how the cover works

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