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Private Medical Insurance

Private health insurance otherwise known as PMI (Private Medical Insurance) has become a familiar insurance which has become popularised on television by leading health insurance companies, including BUPA, Norwich Union & AXA PPP.

Health insurance enables policy holders to bypass the NHS waiting lists and seek treatment within weeks as opposed to having to wait months for tests and specialist consultations and hospitalisation.

Health insurance is available for companies and individuals and can be researched online through the numerous insurance providers and specialist intermediaries. Health insurance is a rather complex series of benefits which requires detailed analysis before making a decision.

Principally, health insurance pays for you to see a specialist and for any tests, such as x-rays, blood tests and other pathological tests, including expensive CT and MRI scans, as determined by your specialist consultant. Health insurance will continue to pay for repeat visits to your chosen specialist and any tests required to enable the specialist to reach a diagnosis, as well as any in-patient treatment if required.

The majority of health insurance policies are held by companies. In fact, 70% of all health insurance policies are held by companies for the benefit of their employees. The remaining 30% are taken by individuals who seek personal protection for themselves or spouse or partner or to include their family.

We all at some time fall ill and seek medical attention, which can lead to tests and even specialist consultations. These normally take months to obtain on the NHS, but health insurance enables you to have the passport to seek immediate consultation and let the insurance company pay for it. You can seek specialist tests, including very expensive MRI scans which cost on average £600 a time. No one wants to fall ill and no one wants to be hospitalised, but health insurance can give you the ability to seek private immediate treatment without having to wait.

Health insurance can be offered as part of a company benefits package and as such an employee does not usually have any say in the terms of cover, other than to be able to extend cover to immediate family members. This might be paid for by the company should your position warrant it, or be paid for by yourself. Health Insurance is treated as a benefit in kind by the Inland Revenue and as such the premiums are classed as remuneration and taxed accordingly.

Personal health insurance is available for individuals, couple cover, single parent and family cover. Premiums are paid annually, quarterly or monthly. The premiums are recalculated annually and usually increase in line with medical inflationary costs - not in-line with standard inflation - which are notably higher than standard inflation rates. This means that your premiums will increase and you should be aware of the potential premium increases prior to committing yourself to a particular insurer.

Health insurance companies offer a myriad of policies from budget, mid range, and comprehensive with intermediate policies in between. This enables companies to offer a reduced premium matched with diluted level of benefits.

One of the most important points to understand with health insurance is that no policy will offer cover for pre-existing medical conditions that you already have or have been diagnosed or even for medical conditions you may have that you are not aware of. In other words you need to have a clean bill of health to be covered for all eventualities, otherwise you will only be covered for every non related new condition you encounter throughout your life.

Health insurance is a complex policy and requires careful consideration prior to taking out a policy. Listen to the cautionary phrase of 'let the buyer beware', and be clear about exclusions and benefit levels before you sign and accept a health insurance policy.