What is it?
Private health insurance or PMI (Private Medical Insurance) generally covers the cost of in patient treatment, including:
Out patient treatment
However, every policy will vary considerably in what is covered and what is excluded.
You should compare as many health insurance policies as you can to make sure you get the service you want, and not just the price.
Private medical insurance should not be seen as a replacement for NHS treatment, but rather an add on to complement the care you automatically receive.
What is covered?
It is intended for short term, curable illnesses or injuries (known as acute), rather than ongoing conditions that may require lengthy medical procedures.
If you have private medical insurance you could:
Cut standard waiting periods
Choose where you are treated
Choose how you are treated
Get private rooms as opposed to a bed in a ward (depending on policy)
Your doctors are likely to be NHS rather than private, and you will often get the same treatment as you would on the NHS, just more quickly.
However PMI does not only cover minor conditions; many policies will cover things like:
Providing private ambulances
Discounts towards annual check ups
When you compare health insurance policies check what is already offered as a customer perk and what extra features will directly impact on your health provision.
For example, some offer in patient or out patient treatment only, but others may cover both. Some policies also give you cashback when you spend a night in an NHS hospital.
Some policies also cover what is known as alternative treatment which could include homeopathy, the services of an herbalist, or acupuncture.
The NHS tends not to provide these services so private medical insurance can be a great way to lower the cost of such treatments.
What is not covered?
Medical insurance is usually intended for short term illness or injury rather than for conditions that are ongoing (chronic) or incurable.
You will usually not find cover for any pre existing or ongoing conditions that you already receive treatment for, such as diabetes and asthma.
Most insurers exclude treatments you choose to have yourself (known as elective treatment), such as:
Treatment for pregnancy
Treatment for HIV
Treatment for psychiatric conditions
Make sure you read all of the conditions and exclusions before taking out a health insurance policy so you know what cover you will have.
Compare health insurance policies to find the right level of cover for your needs.