Since there are many different types and levels of cover, however, how do you compare health insurance in order to buy the protection that is suitable for the individual needs and circumstances of your own family?
Type of health insurance
There are two main types of health insurance and your choice between them depends not only on the level of cover you are looking for, but the extent of information you need to give when making your initial application:
Fully underwritten health insurance
as suggested by the title, this type of insurance typically offers wider and more comprehensive medical cover – and therefore tends to be more expensive
your application also needs to be accompanied by your full medical history and description of existing health conditions
your current GP may be consulted and you might be asked for a physical examination
Moratorium health insurance
this type of insurance tends to be cheaper and maybe less comprehensive in the cover it offers;
you may need to give fewer medical details, except a full declaration of any existing medical conditions;
any pre-existing conditions you declare may be subject to exclusions from the insurance.
What is covered?
Either type of health insurance may offer cover for a wide variety of conditions and it is your selection of the appropriate treatments and procedures that is likely to be the most critical part of any health insurance comparison.
Your choices are typically grouped under three main treatment headings:
this is where you are admitted to hospital for one night or more for the treatment you require – although this may be included in most plans, the more you pay, the wider your choice of hospitals and the better facilities you are likely to be offered;
this provides for your treatment during the day, when some degree of medical supervision is needed after your procedure or treatment;
once again, it is included in most plans, with similar distinctions concerning the hospitals you may use, according to the plan you choose; and
although you are not admitted to hospital, you need to attend an outpatient clinic for a procedure, consultation or other tests;
the level of provision for outpatient treatment varies quite widely between plans and you might want to base your comparison on the number of outpatient appointments permitted or any limit on the cost of those visits.
Treatment of acute medical conditions
When you compare health insurance plans, it is also important to remember that the aim of all such policies is to offer cover (to the level you choose) of acute, rather than chronic medical conditions and illnesses.
As the Consumer Association’s Which? magazine explains, acute conditions are those requiring essential attention, respond well to quick intervention and are therefore relatively short-term. Chronic conditions, on the other hand, are ongoing illnesses and conditions that require longer-term care and which may prove ultimately incurable.