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A Guide to: Health Insurance

Thanks to the NHS, here in the UK health insurance is not a requirement. If we’re ill or injured, we can have free access to treatment at our local GP and hospital.

However, a by-product of the success of the NHS is that unless you are classed as an emergency, you may have to wait for your treatment. In some cases, the wait can add up to several months.

In England, the Government says you should not have to wait more than 18 weeks before starting treatment following a referral from your GP. However, four months of waiting when you’re in pain or your quality of life is being affected can seem like a very long time.

Why take out health insurance?

Even though, thanks to the NHS, we are all entitled to free GP and hospital treatment, many people still choose to take out health insurance. Health insurance providers say they offer peace of mind and the assurance that, for a monthly premium, the appropriate treatment will be offered quickly and at a location of the patient’s choice.

What does health insurance cover?

Health insurance policies are highly variable. Most policies will cover the cost of your treatment and care, giving you access to speedy treatment following diagnosis, often in a private hospital or a private wing at your local NHS hospital.

What doesn’t health insurance cover?

Most health insurance policies will only contribute towards the cost of treatment for conditions diagnosed after taking out the insurance policy. When you apply for health insurance you will have to declare any existing conditions and you may find any treatment arising from these declared conditions will not be covered.

Not all health insurance policies will cover the cost of the initial consultant consultation leading to diagnosis of a condition. You may have to wait for this though the NHS or you can choose to pay for this separately. Also, not all policies cover the cost of out-patient appointments so again, you may have to make the choice between waiting for an NHS appointment or paying to go private.

IndividualPersonally arranged and covers yourself
Small BusinessCan be treated as a business expense, can cover family and any other employees you may take on
GroupMainly for large companies to cover all their employees and have the cost deducted from payrolls.
InternationalCovers you if you move or work abroad

What can affect the cost of my health insurance?

Obviously, the more care your health insurance policy covers, the higher the monthly premium. But it can also depend on the level of excess you will have to pay for each treatment before the insurance kicks in, and also on your own personal situation.

As with car insurance, your monthly premium will increase in proportion with the higher risk of the insurance company having to pay out. Therefore, the older you are and the more medical problems you have experienced, the higher your premium is likely to be. Your lifestyle is also likely to be taken into account – whilst visiting the gym regularly is likely to reduce your premium, being overweight or smoking may cause the premium to go up.

So make some research and compare quotes from few health insurance providers, but do not take your decision based only on the price and read the small print for the details as whatever your choice is, it is about your health.

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