Buyers' Guide - Private Medical Insurance

Most people who take out medical insurance get it from their employer but if you want to buy your own, the options can seem a bit bewildering. Let Moneywise help with our Buyer's Guide.

Health insurance isn't designed to replace the NHS, but it will cover the cost of diagnosing and treating numerous medical problems fast. You may also benefit from complementary therapies and access to drugs that aren't available on the NHS.

So, when you're choosing a policy, your starting point should be your budget. Once you know what you can spend, you can narrow down your choice.

Cover isn't cheap but you can cut costs.

One option is to pay for outpatient tests or use the NHS. You can also increase the excess - the part of any claim you have to pay.

Some plans also let you to slash premiums by paying up to 25% of each claim. Others offer discounts for those that go to the gym.

Or you can limit the choice of hospitals and choose the NHS for treatments where waiting lists are short.

Premiums will depend on your age, your medical history and whether or not you smoke.

You can buy cover directly from an insurer, through a broker or price comparison site. If you're coming out of an employer's scheme your existing insurer may be able to offer discounts too.

Don't automatically go for the cheapest policy without checking exactly what you'll be covered for. Or if you're not sure, take advice from a specialist broker.

Finally, when you’re filling in the application form, tell the insurer about all the illnesses you’ve had – even minor ones – or you could find your claim is turned down.