Medical Premiums: Health check for insurance policies

We recommend a second opinion to obtain hospital cover without unnecessary side effects

By Alan Silver, December 13, 2010

Do you want the peace of mind of medical insurance but worry about the financial damage? Health insurance really does not have to cost the earth. At independent health adviser MediSearch, Martin Howell claims that he can save clients significant sums. He cites the case of a couple in their early 60s in north London who were paying £522 a month on a group scheme, for whom he has found close-to-equivalent cover for £160.

Mr Howell cautions wariness when it comes to group policies. "People think they are getting a good deal when in reality, their premiums are affected by the claims of others.The thing to remember is that it is not your policy. It's better to be independent, with a competitive policy."

His advice for those trying to arrange health cover on a budget is "to insure only for the things you really need. If you go fully comprehensive, you will be paying a higher premium. But if you are prepared to meet the costs of things such as physio or the odd consultation, you can make big savings."

As a rough guide, he says that a comprehensive policy for a 55-year-old would be around £100 a month. Extracting the consultation/physio elements could slash the premium by 40 per cent. "You can get an awful lot of physio for that money," he points out. Opting for an excess on your policy can bring further savings, although Mr Howell observes that "insurers recognise that an excess is a mechanism to put you off claiming".

And for medical insurance with financial peace of mind, he highlights a scheme offering fixed contributions at reasonable rates over a five-year period. With the National Friendly Healthcare Deposit Account, a 50-year-old can pay £60 for annual medical benefits of up to £30,000 at any hospital. You can increase premiums for higher cover and can enter the scheme up to the age of 70.

Find out what cover you are paying for. Why should someone aged 80 be insured against pregnancy?

Also well versed in the field is the independent advisor Richard Collins, of Medischeme, who has been working on individual or group plans with congregants of a number of North London and Essex-area synagogues.

Mr Collins has picked up on the fears expressed by members of the public over the state of the NHS in straitened economic times.

"They are worried about waiting times for non-major operations. They don't want to spend six months hobbling around when they can be seen privately in two to three weeks. There is also the peace of mind of being covered for worst-case scenarios."

He points out that medical insurance is an increasingly competitive marketplace, despite the Pruhealth takeover of Standard Life Healthcare.

"All insurers are looking at new schemes with more choices," he says.

Such flexibility means that even those with an existing medical condition are now finding it easier to transfer to another provider.

And whereas 50 was once the popular entry age for cover, Mr Collins sees increased interest from those in their 20s and 30s. "They are happy to pay for the odd consultation, but want cover for the big items - heart and cancer."

He has also noticed a trend, particularly among the Jewish community, for grandparents to give medical insurance as a present to their grandchildren - not maybe the Chanucah gift of their dreams, but a healthily practical one.

For those going organising their own insurance, he also urges consumers to check that their policy covers only what they might genuinely need and that they are not paying for unnecessary items. "Why would someone of 80 need to have cover for pregnancy?"

However, Medischeme can obtain "reduced rates from insurers that are not available to individuals". And although dealing with all the major players, it can arrange meetings with potential or existing clients at one of the Spire Healthcare (formerly Bupa) hospitals, such as Bushey, Roding or Manchester. "Or we will visit them at their homes in the evening."

Last updated: 12:12pm, December 13 2010