What is Health Insurance?

Health insurance in the UK is designed to cover the costs of private treatment for what are commonly known as acute conditions. Most insurers in the UK define an acute condition as a disease, illness or injury that is likely to respond quickly to treatment which aims to return you to the state of health you were in immediately before suffering the disease, illness or injury, or which leads to your full recovery.

Most people buy this type of insurance to gain the reassurance of knowing that treatment is available promptly, if they become ill or are injured. As a private patient you can choose when treatment will take place, the specialist who treats you and the hospital. You will usually have the privacy of an en-suite room complete with TV and other home comforts. Some illnesses and treatments will not be covered and these are common to most policies. Examples of these are conditions you had before taking out the insurance (commonly known as pre-existing conditions), GP services, cover for long term illnesses that cannot be cured (chronic conditions) and accident and emergency admission. It is important to note that private health insurance is not designed to replace all the services of the NHS. Some such as accident and emergency, are beyond the scope of private hospitals.

The type of policies and level of cover you can receive normally come in 3 phases:

Budget

With this type of policy normally only inpatient treatment is covered, this means that diagnostic tests, Consultant's fees and outpatient treatments are not covered. This type of policy best suits those who can afford to pay their own outpatient tests and consultants fees from savings leaving the policy to pay for the most expensive treatments such as operations. Some insurers will include diagnostic tests and consultants fees if this later results in an inpatient hospital stay. Inpatient radiotherapy and chemotherapy is covered by most insurers on budget polices. Inpatient treatment is covered in full.

Standard

This type of policy covers full inpatient treatment such as operations and a range of outpatient treatments. Specialist consultations and diagnostic procedures, including pathology, radiology computerised tomography, MRI Scans, radiotherapy and chemotherapy up to a limit of anything between £500 - £2000 depending on the insurer. Normally Therapies such as treatment by registered Osteopaths, Chiropractors, Physiotherapists, Homeopaths and Acupuncturists will also be covered again up to specified limits that vary between insurers.

Comprehensive

Comprehensive policies are very much top-of-the-range healthcare solutions. They typically include full inpatient cover, unlimited outpatient cover as described above, MRI, and CT scans and other benefits such as psychiatric cover, travel cover, dental cover, home nursing costs, chiropody, recuperative care and incidental hospital expenses (telephone calls, newspapers etc). For complete peace of mind this is the type of policy you should choose.

However modular flexible type policies are increasingly becoming more popular as this allows the customer to tailor the cover to their exact needs and suit their budget.