There are a number of benefits to be had from private medical insurance. Private cover will typically give you access to increased medical resources, reduced hospital waiting times and a wider range of specialist treatments, as well as a private room.
However, there are downsides to consider – not least the sometimes eye-watering cost of insuring yourself and your family against ill health.
Premiums can be expensive and the costs are going up every year. Dan Hutson, of comparison website Compare the Market, said: “Typically speaking, health insurance premiums tend to increase by around 3-5pc per year, partly because of the increasing cost of treatment, and partly because people are living for longer.”
If you are left wondering whether or not private medical cover is worth the money, here is an overview of the pros and cons.
Should I get private medical insurance?
Going down the private route means that you will have instant, on-demand access to care. Relying on the NHS could mean waiting a very long time for treatment, especially for the rarer illnesses that require specialist expertise.
You will also have access to a wider range of resources. Private hospitals offer a large selection of treatments from the most basic to the more specialised, and can give you ongoing recovery treatments such as physiotherapy, many of which may not be readily available when relying on the state.
In some cases you may be able to get treatment that is not available on the NHS at all because it is too expensive or not approved in state hospitals.
Buying power means more choice and more privacy. You can choose your own hospital, your own doctor, and you get your own private room.
The main downside to private medical insurance is that, inevitably, all the choice and extra resources it affords come at a price.
The price you pay will depend on your policy, and whether or not you choose to insure just yourself, or your family members as well.
The cost of private cover tends to go up most years, and can go up even further if you make a claim. Location can also affect the cost of treatment, so if you decide to move house, you may see a change in the price of your premium.
It is important to note that private insurance does not cover all conditions. Chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and some incurable cancers will often be excluded from a policy.
With the exception of some prescriptions, eye tests and dental services, NHS treatment is free at the point of use, even if you have a serious disease.
Getting value for money
The key thing to remember when it comes to medical insurance is that it is not like car insurance, where you can cut the cost of your premium by switching.
As people get older, they are classed as higher risk to insurance companies. If you go to a new insurer, they are less likely to cover any preexisting conditions.
In some cases you can reduce the cost of your premium by taking advantage of no claims discounts, depending on the provider.
Mr Hutson said: “It is also possible for new customers to choose a high level no claims discount, but they will likely have little scope to improve this rate in the future.”
“It is worth shopping around, speaking to a few providers and checking via comparison sites to see what prices are available to you before making a decision.”