Private medical insurance – is it worth it?

David Hill INLT 45-099-PSB
David Hill INLT 45-099-PSB

Last month, following the debate on the funding of cancer drugs, I wrote about using critical illness cover to buy treatment anywhere in the world.

This week, I want to look at the option of private medical insurance. This is a big topic and I only want to highlight some of the main options. The idea of private medical insurance is to be able to bypass NHS queues and get specialist diagnosis and treatment, if required, without delay.

Bypassing the waiting list for a consultation can be crucial in the case of illnesses where early diagnosis is important. This part of the process can run into many months on the NHS. It is possible, of course, to pay privately out of your own pocket to see a specialist consultant for a cost of only a few hundred pounds.

Given that private insurance for a family often costs over £100 per month, self-insuring in this way can be more cost effective than buying insurance.

Private medical insurance can be valuable if the treatment required is considered to be non urgent to the NHS but of great importance to the individual.

An example of this would be knee or hip replacements which, according to Saga, cost over £10,000 each. There are different levels of cover available on the market. The most expensive policies have practically unlimited levels of cover, while the lower cost policies place limits on claims and can ask the individual to share in the cost of any claim.

Some very basic policies, known as cash plans, pay out cash sums to the individual if they stay in hospital or break bones. Other policies can include dental and optician costs which can be a very valuable benefit.

Most companies offer a choice of at least three different levels of cover, so when getting quotations, it is very important to read and understand the detail of what is and what isn’t covered. Some policies, for example, will be offered on a “full underwriting” basis, where existing conditions may be covered for an extra premium, whereas other policies are offered on a moratorium basis which excludes any existing conditions that were known about at the time the private medical cover was set up.

So take great care when choosing your private medical insurance, or get an independent broker to help to advise you and to wade through the detail.

David Hill is a Chartered Financial Planner and Independent Financial Adviser at Hills Financial Planning, 15 Agnew Street, Larne. He can be contacted on 028 28276814 or by email: