Just as the term suggests, family health insurance provides private medical healthcare cover for your whole family – you, your spouse or partner and your children.
In that way, you have saved the time and trouble of arranging separate health insurance policies for each family member, everyone is covered under the same unified policy, and all enjoy the same level of benefits and access to private healthcare.
At a time when the NHS is under considerable pressure and funding the subject of parliamentary debate – as described in the Independent newspaper on the 25th of January 2018 – many a family is likely to find attractive the additional, supplementary support that private family health insurance promises.
Just as with any other type of private medical insurance, however, specialist policies providing cover for your whole family vary considerably in terms of the benefits they offer, the excess contributions they require, the consultations, diagnosis and treatments available under the policy, and of course the price of the premiums.
With such variety in the symptoms, illnesses and injuries for which you may be able to claim and the types of treatment for which the policy may pay, it is essential to compare health insurance plans offering cover for your family and consider as many health insurance quotes as you are able.
What family health insurance covers
Just like other health plans, family health insurance is a supplement to, rather than an alternative for services provided by the NHS.
Accident and emergency services, for example, continue to be provided by the NHS and your family’s primary healthcare continues to be provided by your GP. Indeed, most private medical insurance providers require a referral from your GP before seeking consultations or treatment as an outpatient or inpatient on a private basis – as noted on the NHS’ own website.
The guiding principle of most private health plans is to cover acute medical conditions and illnesses – those which are treatable and likely to respond well to medical intervention. Private medical insurance is not generally suitable for longer-term, chronic conditions and illnesses, such as asthma, allergies or irritable bowel syndrome, which are difficult to cure.
Against this broad distinction, however, family health insurance offers many benefits, such as:
- speedy referral to private medicine for consultants, diagnostic tests, procedures and surgery, with the aim of avoiding increasingly lengthy waiting lists on the NHS;
- your choice of consultant – and the continuous support of the same consultant, rather than the round of different consultants which you might see when using NHS services;
- access to private wards in NHS hospitals or your choice of private hospital (depending on your health insurance plan);
- access to drugs and treatments which might not be widely available – if at all – on the NHS;
- fewer, if any, restrictions on visiting hours for family and friends; and
- with some family health insurance plans, provision enabling you to stay with or close by your child if and when he or she needs to be treated as an inpatient in hospital.
Comparing family health insurance plans
It must be stressed that family health insurance plans vary enormously in the level and scope of private medical services offered – and this is clearly one of the major determinants of the cost of premiums. It is also the reason why you need to compare health insurance plans as thoroughly and as carefully as possible, seeking as many health insurance quotes as may be necessary.
Compare what is offered across the three principal areas of private healthcare, namely:
- outpatient treatment – your access to consultants and specialists for diagnostic tests, examinations, and treatment that does not require admission to hospital;
- day patient treatment – when a member of the family needs to visit a hospital or clinic or treatment or procedures which do not need an overnight stay in hospital; and
- inpatient treatment – for surgery or more complicated procedures and investigations which require admission to hospital.
Compare health insurance to establish precisely what is covered by any particular policy and how much it costs – the price of your insurance premiums and the amount of excess you are required to contribute whenever you make a claim. Bear in mind that some private medical insurance policies include free cover for the children of insured adults.
The cost of your chosen level of cover may vary according to the size of your family – the number of children that need to be included.
There may also be a maximum age limit for both the children and the adults included in a health plan – children up to the age of 21, for example, and adults up to the age of 75, for example.
Although you might want to compare health insurance quotes to see whether it is cheaper to insure each individual separately, family health insurance plans typically have inbuilt discounts for insuring several family members under the same policy.