The NHS may be sufficient for your needs.

Even with private health insurance, you’ll still use the NHS for services such as your GP or A&E. Equally, if you get a serious illness, you won’t necessarily receive treatment more quickly by being covered by a health insurance policy than you would under the NHS.

For less serious cases, the benefits of a policy can include being referred to a specialist for treatment, as you may have a wider choice of times or locations by going private, over sticking with the NHS. So, paying for healthcare could be considered a luxury.

  • Many providers sell cheap, basic plans that you can add extras to, such as extra cancer care or outpatient treatment, to suit your needs and budget. Decide why you need private medical insurance – to cover every eventuality or more specific medical conditions.
  • You can also cut the cost by restricting when you use the policy. Several insurers will lower your premium if you choose what’s called a ‘six-week option’. This means if the waiting time with the NHS is six weeks or under, you’ll be treated with the NHS. If it’s more, you’ll qualify for private healthcare.

You can extend your policy to cover your family

Family policies are available, as are individual child plans, though these are less common.

Policies for children are designed to cover short-term conditions, in the same way that adult plans are. Although some policies won’t protect children for certain conditions or will only cover them for inpatient and outpatient hospital treatment – so always check the policy before you buy.

Make sure you know what your family’s needs are, then make sure the policy matches up. And remember – as most children’s treatments are free on the NHS, the amount you can claim for is limited.
Also be aware that some private hospitals may not be set up to accommodate children, so before you buy, check the insurer’s list of hospitals to see if children are allowed, and that they’re local.

Take note of the claims process as it varies between policies

Always check with your insurer, but here’s a typical claims process as a rough guide:

  • Be referred from your GP for the treatment first.
  • Registering the claim with your insurer: you’ll need to give details such as membership number, date of treatment, details of the procedure, the charge for each service and the total of all charges.
  • Your insurer will check if you’re covered.
  • Your GP will then need to refer you to a hospital from a chosen list approved by the insurer, and you’ll need to update the insurer throughout the process.

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