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UK Guide to Private Health Insurance

Due to the increased NHS waiting lists many people are choosing to buy Private Medical Insurance (PMI) to gain the reassurance of knowing that treatment is available promptly if they become ill or injured.

As a private patient you can often choose when treatment will take place and at which hospital. It provides cover for acute, treatable medical conditions.
When you need treatment, your insurer will settle all or some of the bills, often directly with your private hospital and consultants.

Private health insurance can ease some of the worries that frequently occur with people who have fallen ill. Common concerns include:
? that you may have to wait to find out what is wrong with you
? that you'll go on a waiting list for surgery when you are in pain or discomfort
? that your condition might worsen while you wait for NHS treatment
? that you'll be called for treatment when family or work need you most

When buying health insurance you will want to be aware of not only the number but also the quality of care offered by hospitals within the insurers' networks, eg by what criteria the hospitals have been selected.

It's important to choose the company and product that best suits your own needs and budget. One option is to select an excess on your cover.

You may also choose cover that pays for hospital stays and treatment only. This means that if you simply visit a consultant, have x-rays or other tests as an outpatient, or have any treatment that doesn't involve a hospital stay, you will pay the bills yourself.

But if you need (usually far costlier) inpatient treatment, your insurer will take care of the consultant and hospital bills.

Some insurers will ask you for a detailed medical history and will then confirm in writing any pre-existing conditions that will be excluded from cover. Other insurers don't ask about your medical history and will only consider whether a condition (again, such as a pre-existing condition) is excluded when you make a claim. Make sure you ask the insurance company to explain this and that you really understand what will happen if you make a claim, particularly in the first year.

There are a number of medical conditions for which you will not be able to get PMI cover and these will be common to most plans.

Most health cover is renewable yearly and subscriptions increase each year. If you'd be more comfortable knowing the amount you'll be paying for, say, five or 10 years ahead, ask an insurer about their fixed price options.

The Association of British Insurers has published an independent guide to private health insurance. The guide has been designed to help you understand more about how private medical insurance works, so that you can make an informed choice before buying a policy. The guide has been awarded a Crystal Mark for Clarity, approved by the Plain English Campaign.

To view the guide, please select the link below. You will need Adobe Acrobat to view the guide which has been produced in PDF format.

Alternatively, below are some of the other agents and providers of medical insurance in the UK:

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