Health insurance is a contract with an insurer. In the simplest terms, you pay regular sums of money to the insurer, called premiums. In return, if you’re ill or injured in the future, then providing the condition is covered the insurer will pay for you to be treated privately.
With health insurance in place, you don’t need to worry about waiting times or paying for the cost of eligible private care. Your health insurer will pay some or all of the bills directly.
Some companies call it health insurance, others call it private medical insurance – we use both descriptions all of the time. Every policy’s details are different, but the insurance itself is the same kind of contract. Here, we’ll give you an overview of health insurance in general – don’t forget, you’re welcome to call us at any time if you’d like to find out more.
Why do people buy health insurance?
This question comes up all the time when we speak to people who are looking for better value health insurance policies. We find out why they want health insurance.
Most people associate health insurance with shorter waiting times, higher quality care, plus prompt access to health and wellbeing benefits of all kinds.
Shorter waiting times can lead to faster diagnosis. Private hospitals pride themselves on delivering high levels of comfort, as well as excellent care.
One of the biggest advantages of health insurance policies is that they offer prompt access to a medical opinion – when and where it suits your lifestyle.
What does health insurance include?
In general, health insurance covers a wide variety of care for acute medical conditions, which are curable and short term. That care is likely to be in a private, en-suite room with excellent facilities – such as your own TV and a choice of menus too – little things that might make a world of difference if you’re feeling ill.
The insurer will cover some or all of the costs. The insurer will also pay, directly, for scans, surgery, drugs – including some drugs that might not be available on the NHS – and all kinds of diagnostic tests. It will usually cover the costs of specialists or consultants, too.
This might seem as though we’re being vague, but different plans from different insurers offer very different levels of cover. What’s more, your personal situation – your medical history – will also mean the terms of your contract might be unique.
That makes it hard to compare health insurance policies. It’s why we exist – to offer Better Health Insurance Advice around buying or switching your health insurance.
What will health insurance NOT pay for?
Most health insurance policies won’t pay to treat a medical condition that you already know about, when you buy the policy. The insurers call this a pre-existing condition.
Nor will they pay for visits to Accident and Emergency, drug abuse, non-essential cosmetic treatments, organ transplants, or treatments associated with a normal pregnancy.
What are the alternatives to health insurance?
If you have a high or ultra-high net income, then a financial adviser may suggest keeping a cash reserve of some kind to pay for private family healthcare.
Critical illness cover is an insurance policy that pays out money if you’re diagnosed with a specified illness. There are usually no restrictions about how you spend the money. So, you could use the payout from a critical illness policy to help pay the bills if you’re off work, for example, or to fund a course of private treatment – much like health insurance.
Healthcare cash plans are lower cost plans that spread the cost of routine treatment over a period of time. They sometimes include regular check-ups, money back, and preventative care – such as lifestyle tests or blood tests.
It’s important to remember that, if you want to, you can choose where to be treated by the NHS. You may not have control over which specialist sees you, or when, or what kind of treatment you receive but, within reason, the NHS does let you choose the location.