Taking out your own medical insurance means you can bypass NHS waiting lists and get fast access to high-quality care.
Private medical insurance (PMI) also means you can choose the hospital at which you’re treated, and decide on the time of treatment and even which consultant or surgeon you deal with.
But PMI needn’t cost the earth: cover for a 25-year-old non-smoking man in Birmingham, for example could cost little more than £30 a month.
Why opt for extra cover
A lot of people may think that as the NHS in Britain offers care that is largely free, there is little point in taking our further health insurance.
But PMI comes into its own in filling the gaps left by the NHS.
Richard Theo, managing director of ActiveQuote Health, a health insurance broker, says: “While the NHS does many things well, you may have to wait months before you get to see a specialist.
"Private medical insurance allows you to avoid often lengthy NHS queues and be treated in a hospital of your choice, at a time of your choice, with a specialist of your choice.”
Theo points out that not all types of treatment are available on the NHS, and that PMI may give policyholders access to a wider range of drugs, for example.
Speed up the process
He explains: “If you want quick private treatment and you don’t have private medical insurance, you may have to meet the costs yourself.
This can be very expensive if long-term or specialist care is required: for example, paying for a private MRI scan can cost up to £1,000, and a hip replacement up to £10,000.
“And while the NHS will cover the cost of certain drugs, it cannot afford to pay for all of them, even if they have been proven effective.
This is most important when being treated for cancer when numerous new drugs are not available on the NHS.
“For example, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has decided that at £21,000 per patient, breast cancer drug Avastin is too expensive for use on the NHS.
With private medical insurance, you can be covered for use of Avastin.”
What are the costs?
Like most types of insurance relating to health, PMI is more expensive the older you are and will also cost more if you smoke, for example, or have a profession that could expose you to more health risks.
ActiveQuote Health says monthly premiums for male non-smokers, with no policy excess, would be around £31 for a 25-year-old, £41 for a 35-year-old, £49 for a 45-year-old and £65 for a 55-year-old.
The greater the extent of cover you want, the more expensive your policy will be. For example, the more comprehensive policies will include cover such as outpatient cover, as well as MRI and CT scans and possibly also dental insurance.
How do you make a claim?
If you want to arrange treatment on a PMI policy, simply tell your GP you have a private policy.
If your doctor needs to refer you to a specialist or hospital, he or she will be able to arrange your visit more quickly and to a leading specialist or consultant.
After that, you should inform your insurer that you want to make a claim: it will then confirm your cover, as well as any excess you will need to pay, and give you the go-ahead.
The specialist will then be paid directly by your policy provider.