Private Medical Insurance – What is it?
Rather than waiting for NHS treatments, Private Medical Insurance, shortened to PMI, allows you to bypass the queues for the treatment of curable, short-term medical conditions.
The advantage of PMI, is you can often choose the place for treatment from a list of UK hospitals. As well as avoiding NHS waiting lists, you can usually chose a date and time for treatment which is convenient for you.
PMI is relatively flexible. The number of claims you make each year are not usually limited. Where you choose to be treated and the level of cover required would determine the premiums you pay. If you choose a top grade or band of hospital, expect to pay more. London teaching hospitals fall into the top band, so are often the most expensive.
What’s covered ?
Typically, PMI policies will not cover pre-existing conditions, long term or chronic conditions, HIV/AIDS related conditions, cosmetic treatment, outpatient drugs and dressings, among many other things. There are generally two types of policies to choose from; a comprehensive policy and a low cost/budget policy. As a comprehensive policyholder you could expect:
In patient treatment:
- Hospital charges including accommodation, nursing care, meals, drugs and dressings;
- Specialist fees;
- Tests including X-rays, CT scans and MRI scans;
- Psychiatric treatment;
- Out patient treatment.
Out patient treatment & benefits:
- Consultations with a Specialist;
- Nursing at home;
- Private ambulance;
- Complementary medicine;
- Minor surgery;
- Hospice Care.
A budget policy will not usually include outpatient treatment or complementary medicine. You can also keep costs down though by agreeing to pay a larger share of the claim cost or by being less constrained on your hospital choices.
Things to watch for
- Some insurers offer no-claims bonuses to limit premium increases, giving you an incentive to avoid minor claims.
- If you receive PMI through your employer, you may incur additional tax if you earn above a certain amount.
- If you come out of an employment PMI scheme, you may be able to negotiate some discounts with the same provider and transfer over.
- Rather than you paying and claiming the money back, some insurers settle bills direct with the hospital.