Whether you're a family, couple or on your own, having a good health insurance plan could pay dividends in the future if you need medical care and don't want to wait for the NHS. Where do you start in finding the right cover though? Read our guide for ideas.
There are three main types of health insurance plans to consider - comprehensive, co-payment, and cash plans. A fourth option is to not bother with insurance, and to pay directly for private health services when you need them.
As the name suggests, comprehensive medical insurance is designed to pay out for any medical need at any time. But advances in medical technology have sent the price soaring, and today this tends to be a product only for the super-rich. As a result of the fewer people who have comprehensive cover, and the fact that many of those who do tend to be prone to making regular claims, premiums continue to rise.
One way to reduce the cost of comprehensive policies is by agreeing to large excesses or alternatively some providers will reduce premiums if you agree to exempt certain common conditions from your cover.
The next best thing to comprehensive policies are co-payment, or shared responsibility. The idea behind these policies is that the customer pays a certain percentage of any claim. Once again, premiums can be reduced by agreeing to exempting claims for outpatient treatment or therapies such as physiotherapy or acupuncture.
These tend to provide the cheapest form of cover - but also tend to be the least comprehensive. Typically, they work by paying out a lump sum, up to a certain limit, for hospital visits, dentist or optician appointments or physiotherapy sessions - and can cost as little as £100 a year and they will pay you a cash sum for every night you spend in hospital - whether it is private or NHS.
Heart surgery or a knee replacement operation could set you back a five-figure sum, so if you're planning to pay for your private healthcare directly, it's worth putting some money away each month into a savings plan.
There are also a number of services, such as GoPrivate, run by the Exeter Friendly Society, which will find the cheapest price for your operation or treatment, in your area. GoPrivate charges about £35 a year, and also includes a free telephone-advice line.