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Will Health Insurance Help You Avoid The NHS Queue?

May 29, 2008
For many people, the biggest advantage of paying for Private Medical Insurance is being able to avoid long queues on the NHS but is that the only reason for investing your hard-earned cash in private medical insurance?

The fact is that there are a number of good reasons that more and more companies are offering PMI as one of their most popular job benefits. Here are some of the advantages of paying for private health insurance plus some drawbacks to watch for and suggestions to make it more affordable.

Avoid the queue and so much more.
The NHS is notorious for long waiting periods before you can get recommended medical treatment. Private health insurance can allow you to schedule your treatments sooner, and at more convenient times. But there is more to PMI than just queue-jumping. In addition, when you opt for PMI, you may find that more conditions and treatments will be covered than under the NHS, the treatment facilities are more comfortable (and more private), and the meals in hospital are better. Depending on the company and the cover that you choose, you may even have coverage for alternative health treatments like chiropractors and acupuncture.

And the bad news is:
Private medical insurance is notorious for being expensive. Again, the expense depends upon the cover and the insurance provider that you choose. There are many ways to cut costs, though. From shopping around to taking a higher excess, to choosing to share costs or agreeing to conditions that save the insurance company money, you can take some control over how much you actually pay for private medical insurance. Some policies, for instance, allow you to choose between being covered under NHS or using your PMI for certain conditions.

Taking control of your healthcare costs
One popular option is to agree that you will take NHS treatment as long as the queue for treatment is less than a specified number of weeks. If the estimated wait time exceeds the specified waiting period, you can schedule treatment through your PMI instead. Another option is to limit your health care choices to a specified list of providers and/or hospitals. You can even cut your premium by agreeing to be treated in a private NHS room rather than in a private hospital. Your treatment costs to the insurance company are less, so you pay lower premiums.

Cutting costs through group PMI
The most well-known type of group cover is PMI through your employer. Many more employers are offering to pay part of your premium for private health insurance as part of an enticing job benefit package. Getting PMI through your job is one of the easiest ways to slash your premiums. Even when your employer does not cover part of the cost, you can often get a substantial saving on PMI just because you are a member of a group with bargaining power.

The same principle applies to fraternal organizations and other organizations to which you may belong. Check with any clubs or organizations to find out if they have worked out any special premium reduction offers with private health insurers.

Read the small print
No matter what you choose, do be certain to read the fine print of your insurance contract. It will spell out specifically what is covered and what is not covered. Health insurers are not benevolent organizations and they are in the business to make money, so you can be sure that they have stacked the odds in their favor. Common exclusions are for pre-existing conditions or those that are diagnosed within a short waiting period after your initial acceptance.
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