It was once easy to buy a comprehensive health insurance policy and almost opt out of the NHS altogether except for primary/GP care. However this was only affordable to the very well off or those lucky enough to have a company pay for the cover.
With health costs spiralling, the costs of cover generally rose over time and became out of reach to many. To help reduce premiums, the private health insurance industry has produced a long list of options to help reduce the cost of cover and bring it back within the reach of more of us.
Freedom’s Elite policy aims to deliver a quality range of cover with options to customise to your needs at an attractive price.
No Claims Discount
This is one way that some providers reduce premiums at the start of the policy to encourage customers to take out their cover. It is often not clear exactly what impact this ‘discount’ will have over the term of your policy though, and you may only discover the true premium when you have made a claim and your costs go up significantly. Often, the premiums don’t come back down again until you have been ‘claim free’ for an extended period of time. This type of policy may discourage the insured person from claiming, making the whole point of having the cover questionable. You never know when you may need treatment and the time following a serious illness is not the best time to be facing escalating health insurance costs.
Freedom Health Insurance doesn’t offer a no claims discounts as we try to ensure fair premiums at the start of your policy and at every renewal.
Adding an excess to your policy is a good way of keeping costs down. An excess is the sum of money the insured party will pay towards their claim (either per person per year or per claim) – it can range from zero (making your premiums higher) to several hundreds of pounds (making your premiums lower).
For example, imagine you had a policy excess of £250. It’s not uncommon for an out-patient appointment with some simple tests, to cost in the region of £200. Many specialist consultations result in no further treatment or investigations. In this example, the insured person with a £250 excess per claim, would pay for this initial consultation themselves if they chose to have the consultation privately. Under these circumstances, there is generally a smaller chance of the insured person to see a series of private consultants for a range of issues just because they are insured. This enables the insurance company to keep the premiums lower. The benefit to the insured person of taking out an excess is that premiums will be lower, whilst ensuring private medical insurance cover is in place to allow private treatment for any significant claim, such as an MRI scan or a surgical procedure.
Using our Online Quote Tool, you can change your excess and see instantly what impact changing your excess level has on premiums for both our Elite and Your Choice products with no obligation.
Six Week Option
The idea behind these plans is to provide cover in the event that the NHS cannot provide the treatment you need within six weeks. Central government targets place a great deal of pressure on the NHS to keep waiting lists as short as possible, so in reality these plans sometimes don’t need to pay out. If the NHS should really struggle going forward, waiting times could grow and this type of plan could come into its own, but for now they probably don’t represent good value as you may not get any real benefit.
Freedom Health Insurance doesn’t offer a Six Week Option policy as we don’t consider they presently provide worthwhile cover. We believe that if you pay your premiums for private medical cover, you should be entitled to private treatment regardless of whether the NHS is able to meet its targets for treatment. When you are unwell, uncertain treatment dates is one stress that you just don’t need.
Hospital Lists/Trust Care
A great way of keeping costs down is to restrict the hospital list. These are the hospitals that the policyholder can access using their plan.
The most extreme version of this option is to restrict the insured person to have treatment in private wings of NHS hospitals only. This can suit some policyholders. Having a private medical plan with out-patient cover and an NHS Hospital-only restriction, will allow rapid access to a consultant and should an in-hospital stay be required, this will be in the private patient wing or ward of an NHS hospital, usually with private rooms.
One note of caution though, if your chosen consultant does not practice at the hospital on your list, you probably won’t be able to use them. Whilst many consultants work in the NHS, not as many treat their private patients in NHS private beds. So choose with care, especially in London where an extended hospital list may be a good investment.
Freedom’s Elite policy has a good range of hospitals on its most basic list with only a few of the very highest price facilities listed separately as an option. None of Freedom’s plans are restricted to NHS-only pay beds, but automatically cover every NHS pay bed in addition. Our Your Choice policy pays a set cash sum for treatment so you are free to choose better value hospitals (NHS pay bed or rural private hospital) and keep any left-over benefit to spend yourself if that is your preference. If you choose to use a more expensive facility, you can simply pay the difference.
This is an effective way to keep your costs down whilst ensuring cover for the major, and often more expensive, in-patient treatments. If you choose only to be insured for in-patient cover, you won’t have cover for out-patient consultations (i.e. any treatment in the hospital that doesn’t require you to be admitted for the day or overnight).
Your GP can refer you to an NHS consultant for your diagnosis, or if you prefer, you can pay to see a consultant privately. You might choose to pay (typically a few hundred pounds) for a couple of immediate private consultations with the consultant of your choice, knowing that if expensive in-patient or day-patient hospital treatment is required (typically costing thousands of pounds), you will be covered for the major expenditure.
Freedom Health Insurance offers in-patient only cover as an option, but we recommend taking out-patient cover too where this is affordable. We try and keep premiums as low as possible to allow this. Some insurers will increase premiums after a single small claim, which again, we try to avoid.
This is a new option and one that you may choose to avoid. This type of policy, often offered to tempt buyers with low premiums, only pays for out-patient consultation appointments and tests. If you need any type of treatment in hospital, you will not be covered. The main issue with this type of policy, occurs when you are diagnosed by a private consultant. That consultant cannot then move you to the top of their NHS waiting list, meaning that although you may have received fast access to a diagnosis, you will then join the same NHS waiting list as those with no insurance cover. In fact some NHS trusts prevent people with a private diagnosis from joining the waiting list for treatment, without first being recommended for treatment by an NHS consultant which could delay treatment even further.
Freedom Health Insurance does not offer out-patient only cover; we think it is full of pitfalls and does not cover the main costs associated with healthcare, i.e. day-patient and in-patient hospital treatment. We do however offer Your Choice, our affordable self-pay cover which pays cash sums per condition with an out-patient option that supplements the core in-patient benefits.
It can be very difficult to get cover for any condition for which you have experienced symptoms, received medication, medical advice or treatment for several years (usually five years), whether the conditions has been diagnosed or not. A new insurer will usually exclude further treatment for a condition that is pre-existing, until a number of treatment and symptom free years have passed. Never try and get cover for a condition you think or know you have. Not being 100% honest and open with your insurer will simply lead to any claim being denied. If you make a claim where there is any doubt, your medical record will be examined and if your condition is found to be pre-existing, your cover will be void.
The best rule is to declare everything you can remember. You can ask your GP for a copy of your records so you can accurately declare all your previous conditions. If you declare that you had asthma as a child but are now symptom free, that may be accepted, so if you get a respiratory condition whilst insured, you would be covered, whereas if you had not declared the illness, your claim could be declined.
To find out more about what chronic conditions are click here.
This subject can be a complex area. Thankfully, cancer has been excluded from most chronic conditions lists, with reputable insurers covering cancer for as long as treatment is required. However, health insurance policies do not often cover other chronic conditions. Once all attempts to cure an illness or injury have been exhausted (usually excluding cancer) private cover will cease. Why is this the case? Simply put, once there is no more that can be done to cure a condition, and that medical support is aimed at relieving long term effects, UK Medical Insurance cover ends for that condition so that costs of insurance is not out of reach to all but the most well off. However whilst cover for the chronic aspects of a condition may not be covered, any changes that do require intervention may well be covered. This is one area where you need to read the key facts and small print of the policy as cover is varied. Suffice to say that quality insurers will cover the acute phase of an illness and significant changes, whilst they usually will not cover the day to day ongoing maintenance treatment. An example is asthma; if you are newly diagnosed and require investigations and treatment these would be covered as per the level of cover selected, however once diagnosed and stable, the routine checks that will probably last the rest of the patients life, will not be covered privately. Yet if a sudden change in the condition were to occur or a new treatment option became available, this may be covered depending on the nature of the cover selected.
Freedom Health follows industry best practice to cover acute but not chronic stages of treatment. Look at the policy summar and policy document for more information.
Just because you have a chronic or long term condition should not put you off medical insurance, whilst that condition, that hopefully you have well under control thanks to care from the NHS, other conditions not excluded by your chronic condition, will be covered. You may wish to take out cover whilst young and fit to ensure you're covered for any conditions that occur in later life.
Freedom Health's policy on pre-existing conditions is in line with other insurers and we work to best practice to reduce abuse of insurance which pushes up costs for all.
This is often difficult for reasons that we will explore, so it’s key to try and select the insurers and policy that is best for you from the outset. Many people find themselves 'locked in' to a policy having made a claim, as once you have made a claim any new insurer would usually exclude cover for that condition until you have been symptom free for two years.