Health insurance problems: 7 private health insurance mistakes to avoid

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It’s easier than ever to secure private health insurance nowadays. Simply contact a broker over the phone or online, share all the information required, and you can have a quote in no time.

However, health insurance isn’t something you want to rush into. There are plenty of mistakes you can make along the way, especially if this is your first time securing cover, and you don’t want to miss out on the best healthcare as a result.

We advise clients on private health insurance every day, and openly welcome questions from people interested in taking out a policy. You don’t need to be an existing customer to qualify for free, non-committal guidance from one of our experienced brokers. But in the meantime, we’ve highlighted seven common private health insurance problems to avoid.

1. Not seeking health insurance advice

Whether they’re taking out private health insurance for the first time or looking to switch providers, many people think that the obvious starting point is to contact an insurer directly. However, knowing the difference between advised and non-advised sales is crucial in securing a policy that will be best-suited to your needs. While an advised sales team will make recommendations based on your personal requirements, a non-advised one will only provide information about their policies and not offer any guidance.

Many sales teams working for health insurance companies are non-advised. That means that, if you take out cover with them directly, you probably won’t understand all the options available and may miss out on a better deal elsewhere. That’s why you’re much better off contacting an advised broker like Healthcare Clarity. All of our guidance will be tailored to your particular needs, with no generic advice. We’ll talk you through all the features and benefits to make sure you know exactly what health insurance is worth buying and why.

2. Prioritising price over cover

Nobody wants to pay for their private health insurance and then find out that they could have got an equivalent policy elsewhere for less. That’s why we compare all UK providers to ensure this doesn’t happen to our clients. However, a common mistake we regularly see is a preoccupation with getting the lowest price, even if it’s at the expense of insurance delivering on a person’s requirements.

Here at Healthcare Clarity, we understand how important cost and affordability are but would never recommend a cheap policy that’s ultimately unsuitable. We would much rather be honest and tell a client that they simply cannot afford the cover they need. It’s important to be realistic, and remember that the fullest, best-quality policies will be more expensive than basic packages. However, if you have a firm budget we can still help you find the best cover within that price range.

3. Choosing inadequate outpatient cover

It’s vital that you understand the differences between inpatient and outpatient cover. Inpatient is included as standard in most private health insurance policies, and relates to treatment requiring a hospital bed or an overnight stay in hospital. Outpatient, however, applies to diagnostics and tests where a hospital bed isn’t required, and there are various levels of cover you can add to a policy. Therefore, it’s important to seek advice to make sure your outpatient levels are adequate.

For example, clients will often be sold full outpatient cover if it falls within their stated budget, even if they only require a limited option. Alternatively, they could accept the most basic outpatient cover without realising that it doesn’t go far enough. Discussing your needs with an advisor will help you ascertain how much outpatient cover you require.

4. Selecting the wrong underwriting

When you take out private health insurance for the first time, you have two medical underwriting choices that will determine what exclusions will apply. In one case, you have to disclose your entire medical history and pre-existing conditions, whereas the other option only bases exclusions on conditions you’ve experienced during the past five years. It is a huge mistake not to seek underwriting advice, and choosing the wrong option for your situation risks unnecessary restrictions being put on your policy.

For example, conditions that require long-term medication like hypertension (high blood pressure) or raised cholesterol are largely considered to be minor, and therefore treatable by a GP. However, if these are wrongly underwritten, this could potentially result in exclusions associated with the whole cardiovascular system. Unfortunately, many people do not realise this until the point of claim, which may be years later.

If you’re thinking of securing insurance for a medicated but controlled condition, seek professional advice. Many providers will cover these kinds of health concerns, as long as the right underwriting method is used, and the conditions are declared pre-sale.

5. Seeking health insurance exclusively for a pre-existing condition

Some people wait until an illness arises before taking out private health insurance. This is a big mistake as securing cover with a pre-existing condition can be tricky. If you have sought advice or treatment for it, you won’t usually get immediate cover.

There are exceptions, however. We have already mentioned that cover for hypertension and raised cholesterol can be obtained, as long as you select the right medical underwriting option. An underactive thyroid can also be included, while General & Medical even offers some cover for diabetes on new underwriting terms.

If you can’t be insured for your particular condition, you may decide not to get a policy after all. Dismissing medical cover altogether can be unwise, as it means you won’t have insurance if additional conditions arise in the future. We’d recommend you speak to an advisor in this situation. What’s more, there are providers who do cover pre-existing conditions in some cases, so it’s always worth exploring all your options.

6. Not checking hospital lists

Many people have particular hospitals and specialists in mind when they take out private health insurance, but imagine their shock when they go to make a claim, and learn that their conditions aren’t covered by their dream policy. Hospital lists vary between providers and policies, so it’s absolutely imperative you check the details thoroughly before committing. You may be able to upgrade to an extended hospital list later, but this will usually increase your premium, so it’s best to ensure your preferences are included from the off.

7. Misunderstanding the claims process

Ask your adviser about your insurer’s claims process before you buy a policy. You must fully understand what is expected of you, and ensure you don’t have unrealistic expectations. As a general rule, the insurer will require the following to assess a claim:

1) access to a GP report about the condition

2) a referral letter from your GP

3) a conversation explaining the nature of the claim.

If you have any queries or concerns, get in touch with Healthcare Clarity today to speak to our expert advisors. As well as recommending a policy based on your needs, we can also review any documentation you’re considering to confirm that you understand all the terms and conditions.