Private medical insurance
What is it?
Private Medical Insurance ('PMI') is a type of insurance policy designed to cover the costs of private medical treatment for curable, short term illnesses and injuries (usually referred to as 'acute conditions').
Providers of this type of insurance have devised a 'core product' which is common to all such policies and which consists of:
Cover for treatment of 'acute' medical conditions
Hospital accommodation and nursing
In addition to the 'core product' different policies will offer combinations of extra aspects of medical cover. The most common of these additional features are:
Out-patient consultation with a specialist
Out-patient drugs and dressings
Nursing at home
Complementary or 'alternative' medicine
Cash payments if treated as an NHS in-patient
Complications arising from pregnancy and childbirth
Maternity cash benefit
What will it NOT cover?
As with many types of insurance, most PMI policies will not cover treatment for any 'pre-existing conditions', ie: conditions already apparent at the time the policy commenced.
It's also important to remember that PMI is not intended to replace all of the services offered by the NHS. In particular, accident and emergency services are beyond the scope of most private hospitals
Why should I have it?
Our NHS rightly has an envied reputation for its accident and emergency services, approach to treating cancer and 'free' access to all. However, hardly a week goes by without reports in the media about the system being overloaded, lengthy waiting lists and the so-called 'postcode lottery' for the availability of certain treatments.
PMI gives you the peace of mind to know that you can receive prompt treatment at a time and place that suits YOU, and often in the comfort of a private hospital room.
THINK ' How long would you be prepared to wait for the NHS to carry out diagnostic tests and treat a complaint such as a tumour or a back problem? It's not unusual for a problem to be fully diagnosed and treated privately in less time than it takes to get an initial referral from your GP to an NHS specialist. The sooner you can get treated, the sooner you can get on with your life!
Types of Cover
Whichever treatment type you look at, you will find that it's categorized in one of three main ways:
In-patient - This is when you go into hospital for treatment or tests and stay in for one or more nights.
Out-patient - When you receive hospital consultations, tests or treatment for which you do not need to stay in hospital, either as a day patient or in-patient.
Day-patient(sometimes referred to as 'day care' or 'day case') - when you go into hospital for tests or treatment but don't need to stay overnight.
How much will it cost me?
The cost of PMI depends on several factors, including:
The age(s) of the people covered by the policy - the older the person, the higher the premium
The amount of extras added to the 'core product' - the old adage that you get what you pay for!
Where in the country you are likely to be treated - average consultants/surgeons fees in Northern Ireland are roughly half what they are in the South of England.
The range of hospitals available for treatment - rather like hotels, the prices for in-patient stays can vary (eg: the option of having a private en-suite room at a top central London hospital is going to cost you more that the quivalent room in a provincial hospital)