Types of insurance policies
Before taking out private medical insurance, it is important to consider the types of policies available:
Comprehensive or Full Cover Schemes – enable you to choose any hospital and covers all out-patient consultations and investigations, plus all in-patient treatments.
Limited Benefits or Budget Schemes – have certain criteria attached; they may only cover in-patient operation costs or only cover operations if the NHS waiting time exceeds 6 weeks.
Local Schemes – are promoted by the Police Force or Civil Service. They are fairly limited and have certain criteria attached. For instance, only so many out-patient consultations per year are covered, and in-patient treatment may be referred to a specialist hospital outside your area.
Hospital Cash Plans – allow the claimant to receive a fixed amount of money to offset the cost of private medicine.
Permanent Health Insurance and Income Protection Schemes – do not pay for private medicine but do provide cash benefits for certain illnesses or if you can no longer work.
Certain items – such as hearing aids and spectacles – are not covered by private health insurance. Out-patient prescriptions can be costly, and as a private patient you will not be eligible for an NHS prescription.
Private health insurance does not cover treatment of chronic, pre-existing, or psychiatric conditions, as well as long term rehabilitation or health screening.
Self-funded private medicine
Of course, you do not have to take out private health insurance. The cost of doing so can vary between £117 - £206 per month for a family of four. Instead, you may opt to save money regularly through an ISA (a tax free, high-interest savings account) and draw on the cash reserve when necessary.
Alternatively, specialist finance companies offer personal medical loans and finance schemes specifically for people who don’t have private medical insurance. These can be used to cover the cost of private operations, including cosmetic surgery.
Most private hospitals offer fixed price packages, whereby the cost of the operation is less than if you were an insured patient. Fixed packages cover the cost of private operations as well as a wide range of in-patient expenses, such as all medical and nursing care, private accommodation, drugs, dressings, and surgeon and anaesthetist fees.
Fixed price packages are important to look out for. Offered by a range of companies, such as Capio, BMI Healthcare, and BUPA Hospitals, they are applicable to most operations and patients, regardless of age.