When you first hear the words,‘Health Insurance’, it probably brings to mind places like the US; where even a trip in an ambulance could end up costing you thousands, and a worrying amount of people will put off visiting a doctor because they can’t afford Health Insurance at all! But, here in the UK we have the good old NHS; providing care and treatment regardless of how rich or poor we are – so why would anyone bother paying out for Health Insurance? But honestly what do you need to know about Health Insurance?
The truth is there are several good reasons to take out a private Health Insurance policy – including being able to choose where you receive treatment and who from – that, for some people, make the premiums well worth it. For others, the expense and the fact that the NHS offers an excellent service, make having Health Insurance seem a bit pointless.
In this article I’m going to take a look at how Health Insurance works, what it covers, and when you should use it, so that you can make your own mind up….
What Is It?
As you’ve probably already guessed, Health Insurance is a policy that will pay out for any private health care you receive. It covers medical, surgical, and sometimes dental expenses.
You can either take out a policy that covers just yourself, or one that covers you and a partner.
There are some Health Insurance policies that cover entire families, and there are other Health Insurance policies that are included in your benefits package with your employer.
How Does Health Insurance Work?
Your Health Insurance policy will pay for any private medical treatment, test or surgery that you require during your policy’s term – it’s usually used for conditions which are curable and short term.
As with any other type of insurance you will pay a monthly premium for your Health Insurance, and this premium will depend on the type of cover you choose, your age, whether you have any pre-existing medical conditions, and your lifestyle choices – and we all know by that I mean whether or not you smoke, are overweight, or use drugs or drink excessively.
As with all other types of insurance, you can be sure to be paying higher premiums if any of those things apply to you.
Health Insurance is designed to work alongside the NHS, rather than instead of. This means that your GP appointments would still be through the NHS, but because of your policy you could be treated sooner, have a private room if you had to stay in hospital, and even have a choice of which hospital you are treated in.
It’s important to know that when it comes to being treated sooner, this isn’t the case with cancer treatments or treatment for heart attacks and strokes etc. Emergency conditions will always be treated as priority through the NHS.
What Does It Cover?
Much the same as with the answer to the question, ‘what will Health Insurance premiums cost?’; it will depend on the type of cover you take out.
It goes without saying that the most comprehensive cover is the most costly, but it offers you the most coverage. It will cover both inpatient AND outpatient care, meaning that you are covered for any overnight or daytime hospital stays, as well as any tests, scans or consultant appointments you might need.
A mid-range policy will offer pretty much the exact same thing, except that there will normally be a price cap set for the amount of private healthcare you can receive in each policy year.
As I’m sure you’ve worked out by now, a basic Health Insurance policy is going to offer you the cheapest premiums, but will only cover you for inpatient care.
Some insurers offer a sort of ‘create-your-own’ Health Insurance policy, allowing you to pick exactly what you want covered, from options such as:
- Psychiatric treatment
- Dental treatment
- Medical treatment and nursing at home
- Treatment for specific diseases – such as cancer.
Basically, every policy will have different limits and exclusions – it will all depend on your insurer.
What Isn’t Covered?
Again, this will depend largely on the insurance company; many won’t cover pre-existing medical conditions, such as diabetes, for example, although some will include cover for such conditions – so it’s well worth shopping around.
However, most Health Insurance policies won’t cover:
- Chronic illnesses such as HIV, including any treatment for long term or incurable conditions
- Any treatments that you choose to have rather than need to have, such as cosmetic surgery or fertility treatment
- Rehab treatment for drug abuse
- Any treatment abroad (this should be covered by your travel insurance)
- Treatment and care during pregnancy – although health complications are sometimes covered, it will depend on your policy
- Emergency treatment. A&E departments and ambulances etc are generally run by the NHS, so you won’t be treated any quicker or better if you were in a serious car accident, for example, just because you have Health Insurance
When Should I Use My Health Insurance?
As I’ve mentioned a couple of times, when it comes to receiving emergency treatment, having Health Insurance will neither help nor hinder you. If you were to have a heart attack or need emergency surgery following an accident, you are a matter of priority to the NHS and will receive exemplary care.
Having Health Insurance isn’t a need, it is a personal preference that either suits your needs, or not.
If you want quick access to treatments that might not be available on the NHS, or would like a choice of hospital or specialists then it’s well worth getting – and can actually be good value if you think you’ll use it a lot.
Health Insurance policies are most commonly used to get second opinions or specialist referrals after seeing a GP, as well as being able to choose where you receive treatment and who from.
Also, if you have Health Insurance you can pay for certain scans and treatments that you might be refused on the NHS because they aren’t deemed necessary.
Another reason people use their Health Insurance rather than the NHS is so that they can have a private room following treatment, rather than be on a ward with other patients.
For some, this is reason enough to have Health Insurance – studies do show that recovery times can be quicker in the more stress-free and relaxed environment of a private room. They’re more often than not a lot more ‘homely’ than a ward, plus you’ll have access to a wider menu and less scheduled meal times if you are paying for the privilege of staying there – another added bonus.
What do you need to know about Health Insurance? Well ultimately, Health Insurance gives you more choice, and that is something that a lot of people are willing to pay for. If you want to find out more about Health Insurance, or want some advice on finding the best policy for you or your family, then please do give me a call
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