Comparing Private Health Insurance Policies

It is all very well being told to shop around for private health insurance, but with so much choice and a bewildering number of options it is often quite overwhelming for the customer to know where to start. Each policy needs to be examined, each with different conditions and benefits, this could mean calling hundreds of companies! Unless you have all day to do this it is likely that you will need some help to search the policies on offer in the market. Today it is much easier and speedier for the customer to price compare and choose policies that suit them. There are several  price-comparison websites out there, which make life much easier when it comes to shopping around. It is easy to think you are comparing like with like when using these sites but you will need to exercise some caution. As with most offers, it is never that simple you will need to check all the conditions carefully before signing up. You may actually be able to get the policy cheaper if you go straight to the insurer with the cheapest quote. It can be difficult to compare policies because of their complexities but often price comparison sites will have columns with things many people require at the top and a tick or cross next to each policy if they include these things or not. This can make it easy to eliminate some policies. These sites are a helpful starting point, once you have seen which policies include all of your basic requirements you could call the companies for a bit more information and to clarify and issues you have. You can also tailor the quote so that it includes more information and may become more accurate. Once happy that all your quotes are for what you want you can start comparing them on grounds such as price and extras included.

What Types of Private Health Insurance Are There?

There are many types of insurance on offer, and there are some general rules regarding each one. Taking out ‘full cover’ usually means you pay a higher cost but receive the benefit of there being no limits that the company will pay up to with regards to length of treatment or cost of treatment, providing that particular treatment is covered. Other plans come with fee limits or a more ‘off-the shelf’ cover that can provide you with specific cover for your needs, rather than addressing all available situations. There are many different sorts of policies out there. Here is a brief summary of the main types.

Low cost policies

These tend to only provide comprehensive cover only if the treatment is not available on the NHS within a specific time limit, for example policies with an agreed NHS waiting time before the policy becomes active. Most low cost policies will not cover outpatient treatment, most of the alternative therapies and physiotherapy.

Comprehensive policies

These policies cover most aspects of treatment such as hospital stays, surgery, nursing and anaesthetist costs, diagnostic tests, outpatient and day-care treatment and usually physiotherapy.

Premium policies

These types of policies offer additional benefits to the standard comprehensive policies such as dental treatment, overseas cover and critical illness cover. Treatment may be specified at a hospital with excellent credentials and more specialists may be available to you.

Think Before You Buy!

Don’t forget to ask about the cooling off period before you buy a policy. These vary but are generally around a month. This cooling off period is sometimes not mentioned by advisers and is often in the small print. A cooling period is a period of time after you have paid for the policy in which you are able to cancel without incurring a charge. If you cancel within the cooling off period you should receive a full refund unless you have made a claim. If you have made a claim you are liable to pay the full policy cost. Some companies charge you for the number of days that you have been on cover, even if you are cancelling within the cooling off period.

Read the policies carefully during this cooling off period or if not before. You should receive the documents within 5 working days on average, and this should make them easier to read. Viewing documents online is not always easy and details is often lost so having the actual documents in front of you is when you should then read through them carefully. Once you have read the policy carefully and thoroughly it is then wise to note down any issues or queries for your insurer or adviser so you can get clarification. At this stage if you are not sure or happy about any aspect of the policy remember you can pull out, as it will be during the cooling off period. Some people think once the documents arrive the policy is ‘done and dusted’ of course this is not the case so do take action if you are not sure of anything.

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