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Private medical insurance (PMI) is becoming increasingly popular in the UK.
With all the controversy about funding and long waiting lists in NHS hospitals, it’s not surprising that people are turning to private medical insurance to cover themselves.
Here’s a guide to the different types of medical insurance, what they cost and what you can expect.
PMI helps to cover the costs for private medical care if you’d rather not wait for treatment on the NHS. The basic facts are:
You can buy insurance from an insurance company, independent adviser or an insurance agent.
You’ll usually need to fill out a medical history declaration and provide the insurers with your full medical history. They may contact your GP for further information.
Make sure you give all the information you’re asked for because an insurer could refuse to pay out for a claim in the future if you don’t. Any pre-existing conditions will not be covered by the policy should they arise again, no matter how long ago you set up the policy. You’ll also have to pay the costs yourself.
Some insurers offer a moratorium policy, which sounds a bit complicated but all it means is that you don’t have to provide a full medical history, just some basic information about you and any members of your family you wish to insure.
Here are some things to know about moratorium policies:
PMI is designed to cover the costs of private medical treatment for what are called ‘acute’ conditions. Insurers define these as illnesses, diseases or injuries that can respond to treatment quickly. With Bupa, like many other health insurers, customers can reduce the cost of their policy by choosing from different levels of cover. Although there may be a cap on the amount you can claim in each category, it will usually cover the cost of:
Don’t forget PMI is like any other insurance – you find out what you’re not covered for when you claim. ALWAYS read the small print!
Most policies exclude all past medical problems, known as ‘pre-existing conditions’ and no policy will cover all your medical needs. The following are almost certain to be excluded:
Your PMI premiums will also rise over time. This is because as your age increases so does the likeliness that you will need to claim and also the fact that new treatments, drugs, technology may become available and will add to costs.
You’ll also be thrilled to know that medical inflation (the cost of buying treatment in the private market) also runs above the rate of normal inflation. Great.
One of the biggest costs if you need treatment can be hospital accommodation. Most insurance providers offer different options that put hospitals into grades A-C with the higher grade costing more. So a band A premium will pay for the most expensive private hospitals and a band C premium will pay for medium-priced private hospitals. Make sure you consider the distance and reputation of hospitals offered by the insurance company before you make a decision.
If you’re prepared to pay a higher premium, you can get a policy that also provides cover for:
Most insurance companies say you can choose where you want to be treated – with travel costs included – at a price. Surprise, surprise, though, with PMI you get the cover you pay for, so those kinds of extras will add handsomely to your premiums.
It may be worthwhile going through a registered PMI broker who should be familiar with a wide range of policies and can recommend one to meet your needs. A broker earns money through commission from insurers so if you do use one ask for several policies so that you can compare costs, benefits and how much commission the broker gets from it!
Try to get a rough idea of what you can afford each month and seek to tailor the choice to your budget:
PMI isn’t right for everyone, particularly if you’re on a very tight budget. Luckily there are alternatives you can consider:
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Hi Jasmine! I’m a French expat and have been working in the UK for nearly 3 years. I tried the NHS but my existing conditions are not on their ‘list’: they only do diabetes, obesity, and they tried to get me to do tests for venereal diseases! I met a German pharmacist who has been working for the NHS for nearly 5 years, and she still travels back to Germany for medical treatment. I’ve also met a couple of Polish people who travelled back to Poland, including for operations. So I also travel back to France every couple of months:… Read more »
Hello Helene, thanks for your detailed question. It’s a good one! I also know expats here who go home for medical and dental treatment – mainly because it’s better. However, we will go ahead and research this for you and let you know. Keep checking back here for the answers! Jasmine
Hi Helene, We’ll look into your PMI query. In the meantime, you should be aware that if you are a French national, you should have access to free NHS hospital care (as France is in the EEA / European Economic Area). As you’re employed/self-employed with your principal place of business in the UK, you should be fully exempt from NHS hospital charges in England. This exemption also applies to your spouse, civil partner or children (under the age of 16 or 19 if in further education) if they are living with you in the UK on a permanent basis. You… Read more »