Private Medical Insurance (PMI)

Whether you’re looking to fast-track through the healthcare system for an operation or simply to reduce the costs of everyday treatment (dentists, physiotherapy, for example), health insurance is well worth considering.

Here, Matthew Howells, Founding Partner at Vizion Health helps us pick through some of the points to consider before buying or renewing your policy.

Top Tip from annabel consultant, Avril Robertson:

From recent, personal experience, a broker can be an invaluable source of information and support to guide you through what can be very complex PMI policies.

What’s the difference between private medical insurance (PMI) and a Cash Plan?

Private medical insurance covers treatment of ‘acute conditions’ (such as back pain) and includes the cost of operations and treatment of serious conditions like cancer. It generally complements the NHS by enabling faster treatment and can provide access to drugs and services that aren’t available on the NHS.

A Cash Plan, on the other hand, covers everyday healthcare treatments such as a trip to the dentist or opticians. You usually pay for the appointment or treatment upfront and then claim some or all of the cash back (depending on your policy). Don’t assume that this is a case of either/or: it often works well to have both types of policy.

Is it worth going through a broker?

Howells advises that the benefits of using a broker include preferential rates from providers, having someone who can translate insurance jargon and on-going support with claims and processes.

Other benefits include specific tailored advice based on personal circumstance which you will not receive directly from insurers. MSE recommends consulting Association of Medical Insurers and Intermediaries (AMII) for a list of reliable brokers.

Do I still need to see my NHS GP as a first point of contact?

Howells says that, traditionally, medical insurance in the UK has been designed to work alongside the NHS, meaning that primary care (GP level) would usually be dealt with by the NHS. However, in recent years, this has been less effective with a growing strain on the NHS and long waiting times to even get an appointment with a GP.

Many of the main insurers are now opting to include benefits such as ‘Virtual GP’, ‘24/7 Helpline’ and self-referral services to improve help combat these waiting times in turn alleviating strain on the NHS.

Does health insurance cover mental health?

Many providers now offer mental health cover as standard and some also specialise in bespoke mental health care. For example, Vitality offers cover that includes online support, therapy sessions and even in-patient and day-patient treatment.

Is it worth shopping around when it comes to renewal?

Howells recommends that you review your insurance plan every year, but would not always recommend changing provider. Market feedback (getting quotes from competitors) can be a useful tool to negotiate with your current insurer to achieve a reduction at renewal. That said, if there is an improvement in cover to be made by changing, and your medical situation allows it, then it can be beneficial. With regards to excess, he suggests always looking at how the total saving would compare against the increase in client liability. There are certain levels of excess he would advise against, depending on the level of outpatient benefit included with a plan.



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