There is a simple and straightforward answer to the question. The best health insurance plan is the one suitable for your own particular, individual health needs and financial circumstances. No one size fits all and the best health insurance for you might not represent the most appropriate solution for your work colleague/sibling/neighbour.
The good news is, however, that you can make an informed decision as to the best health insurance plan for you by understanding the different options available and comparing those options. Here we explain what those options are …
Comparing health insurance
Discovering the health insurance plan that is likely to be appropriate for your individual needs and circumstances typically involves a two-fold approach:
- identifying your health needs – given your age, current state of health and any pre-existing medical conditions or illnesses; and
- comparing the many private medical insurance schemes on offer by using all available resources to conduct your own well-informed health insurance reviews.
To compare health insurance options, you need to bear in mind that these – and the prices of the premiums you pay – are directly related to your personal circumstances.
That means: your age; any pre-existing medical conditions; and, the level of access you want to private healthcare as a supplement to that provided by the National Health Service (NHS).
In an article last updated in August 2017, the Consumers’ Association’s Which? magazine estimated that approximately 5.1 million people in the UK have some form of private medical insurance (also known as PMI). This involves insurers paying out some £7.4 million every day in claims.
When you compare health insurance, the principal distinction you are likely to encounter when searching for the appropriate cover is between:
- those conditions which you are required to declare, however, are likely to be specifically excluded from your health insurance cover for a prescribed period of time (commonly, two years, although this period may vary from one insurer to another); and
Full medical underwriting
- this typically offers more comprehensive cover and, therefore, tends to be more expensive;
- it also requires a fuller, more detailed, medical declaration, to which your GP may be invited to add his report on your current state of health and pre-existing medical conditions;
- the older you are, the more likely is any provider of private medical insurance to restrict your choice of cover to full medical underwriting.
Whether you consider moratorium or full medical underwriting to provide the best health insurance for you, of course, depends on what level of private healthcare you expect from the cover – and how much you are prepared to pay for it.
The health insurance plans available
Against the background of this broad distinction between moratorium underwriting and full medical underwriting, the availability of private medical insurance is characterised by the different levels of access to private consultations, hospitals and treatments offered.
As the Money Advice Service points out, even the most basic forms of insurance are likely to cover the cost of private inpatient diagnosis and treatment – including consultations with your chosen specialists and surgical procedures.
More affordable healthcare plans may have a limited choice of private hospitals or restrict inpatient treatment to the use of private wards in NHS hospitals. A further way of reducing the cost of your insurance might be to restrict your use of private facilities and treatment only if NHS waiting lists have grown beyond a maximum acceptable length of time.
If you are prepared to pay more for your health insurance, you are likely to find that outpatient consultations, treatments and procedures are also covered.
The more you pay, the greater choice you are likely to be offered in private hospitals (which might be closer to home or provide a higher standard of accommodation and nursing care, for example). More expensive private medical insurance gives you the broader freedom to choose how, where and when ou choose to be treated.
What is generally not covered
When you compare health insurance, it is as critical to consider what is not covered as what is.
Typically excluded from private medical insurance, for example, are the following:
- pre-existing, chronic conditions – which you have been required to declare in your application for cover and which typically respond poorly, if at all, from treatment or medical intervention (such as the management of asthma, diabetes, epilepsy or kidney dialysis);
- accident and emergency (A&E) treatment;
- costs relating to normal pregnancy and childbirth; and
- more basic policies may also exclude treatment for mental health issues, depression and sports injuries.
The best health insurance plan?
It is worth reiterating that the best health insurance is the insurance that provides the cover especially suited to your personal health needs and circumstances.
There are certainly enough plans from which to choose and, here at Over50Choices we have all the resources you need to compare health insurance in a meaningful and fully-informed way.