The number of people in Britain taking out private medical insurance has risen significantly this year for the first time since 2008. Below are our top tips to help you navigate this confusing market and ensure you get the best deal for you.
1. Benefit structure – Lots of policies are modular these days so it’s worth having a good think about what’s important to you. Perhaps psychiatric cover isn’t the top of your list? Perhaps limiting the amount of out-patient cover would be worthwhile? Could having access to a Private GP in central London be a priority? Any good advisor will take the time to understand your needs in a detailed way and find a product that meets them perfectly.
2. Be clear on No Claims Discounts – Some health insurers offer them, some don’t, and unfortunately only a crystal ball can tell you if this option will be good for you in the long-run. Therefore, it’s hugely important that you understand what you’re getting into. It’s easy to be attracted by a low premium, but be aware that a large No Claims Discount means your actual core premium is much higher than the price you’ve been quoted and if you make a series of claims, you could quickly find yourself paying a significant amount more.
3. Be cautious of sales people that represent a single insurer – Whilst professional and knowledgeable in most instances, success for them is selling you their product, and their product alone. The price you’ll pay will be no less by going direct and like all good sales people, they will focus on the great points of their offering, but can’t give you an impartial view of how they stack up against their competitors. Product, benefits, features, service, administration and claims can vary wildly between insurers, so how can this person be sure that your needs wouldn’t be better served elsewhere?
4. Avoid online comparison websites – We’re talking about your health here so don’t manage the process like you would when reviewing your home or car insurance. Comparison sites can leave you confused and raise more questions than when you started. Additionally, the big comparison websites (aggregators) will often pass your details onto third parties, which could result in numerous unexpected phone calls and emails from sales people. It’s tempting to click website links promising a “quick quote”, but realistically, this will simply be an online form for your personal details, where you’ll agree for a sales person to ring you back.
5. Consider the importance of wellness initiatives – The success of the health insurance market relies heavily upon healthy lives being covered to offset the claims cost of those who become ill. In recent years many insurers have started to provide wellness initiatives as part of their products in an attempt to incentivise healthy behaviour and provide greater value to members. Wellbeing is a sexy topic in society at present, so if discounted gym memberships, free wearable tech devices and low cost health screening resonates with you, find a plan that delivers them.
6. Do your homework on cancer cover – Possibly the most emotive reason that people buy Private Medical Insurance in the first place? It’s true that oncology cover differed greatly in the past between UK medical insurance providers, but it’s not so much of a differentiator these days, with most insurers recognising how important it is to offer comprehensive cover as a default setting. The most important elements to check are that the chosen product provides cover for biological therapies (the expensive cancer drugs), palliative care and the time limits which apply before cover ceases.
7. Consider your hospital selection – Do you really need all of those top-tier hospitals in Central London covered? Probably not. There is a common misconception among those with health insurance that the amount a hospital charges for accommodation and other sundries is directly related to clinical outcomes. This simply isn’t the case. A hospital selection more suited to your geographical location or where the insurer directs you, can deliver handsome savings on your premium and still provide an excellent setting for any treatment.
8. Take advice on Consultant selection – Whilst most insurers say they provide “Full Refund” for Consultant costs, what most actually mean is that they will cover in full up to an amount they deem reasonable and customary for the procedure in question. This can mean that customers are left with a shortfall between what the Consultant charges, and what the insurer is willing to pay. Insurers often catch the brunt of peoples’ frustrations here but truth be told, if an insurer won’t pay a Consultant’s bill in full, it’s likely the Consultant charges more than the typical cost for that procedure, and with no clear evidence that their clinical outcomes, expertise, experience or re-admission rates warrant a higher value on their work. Some insurers can genuinely provide full cover for Consultants, Surgeons and Anaesthetists so it’s important to consider your priorities here.
9. Policy Excess – An excess is a great way to reduce your premium by agreeing to pay the first (x) amount of a claim. If you are most concerned with very large healthcare costs and you want to keep the premiums low, then perhaps a large excess or shared-responsibility could be suitable. The most common excess is £100 and will typically deliver between a 7-10% discount on your premium.
10. Seek independent qualified advice – With a surge in Private Medical Insurance sales comes an increased number of sales channels to service that demand. Regrettably not all of these channels possess the professional qualifications and experience to do a great job. Our top tip is to seek independent advice from a qualified intermediary who has access to all UK health insurance providers. Specialist health insurance intermediaries offer an impartial view of the market and provide you with prices from all insurers, meaning they can genuinely put your needs at the top of their priority list without having to shoehorn you into product which isn’t quite right. What’s more, as they have customers with all insurers but no allegiance to any, you can be sure that any views of specific insurers (good, bad and indifferent) are impartial and based on real customer experiences.