A private medical insurance policy (PMI) will pay for you to have treatment in a private hospital, avoiding sometimes lengthy waiting lists and shared wards. However, this insurance product is more complex than it may first appear. Brian Walters from award-winning health insurance broker Regency Health shares his tips for getting the best policy:
1. Buy on value
If you can, buy on value rather than price. Medical insurance is usually a significant expense, so it's worth taking the time to understand what you're buying. As with most things in life, you get what you pay for.
2. Don't pay for benefits that you don't need
Limiting your hospital coverage can return significant premium savings. For example, PruHealth offer three tiers of hospital coverage, with most of the BMI, Spire and Nuffield hospitals on the cheapest list and the central-London hospitals on the most expensive list. Savings can also be made by removing cover for psychiatric treatment and limiting or removing elements of out-patient cover (consultations, diagnostic tests and therapies).
3. Take an excess
Excesses on most private medical insurance are payable once per person per policy year, so it is easy to weigh the saving against what you might have to pay if you claim.
4. Consider a company scheme
If you're employed and your employer offers a PMI scheme, this will likely be the cheapest option, although you will have to pay tax on the benefit in kind at your highest rate.
If you own a business, it may be more cost-effective to set up a group scheme. However, keep in mind that you will need a minimum of two main members and both must be directors or employees of the company.
5. Be wary of high introductory no-claims discounts
These policies are often cheaper at the outset but have the potential to become very expensive in the event of claims.
6. Review your cover
If you already have private medical insurance, don't forget to review it periodically. Changes in the market mean that you could get a better deal elsewhere, although much will depend on your medical history.
7. Take specialist advice
For many people, private medical insurance is too complicated to buy online and it is no more expensive to buy through a broker. A good broker will also advocate for you if you run into difficulties with your insurer. For further information on buying a PMI policy, contact The Association of Medical Insurance Intermediaries (AMII).