Private medical insurance begins to shed its exclusive tag

PRIVATE HEALTH; A SPECIAL REPORT

Private medical insurance is the third most valued company perk, after a pension and a car. But the number of people buying it for themselves is steadily growing.

Almost seven million people, about 12 per cent of the population, are now covered, with a third of the cover provided by employers. This is set to expand to 16 per cent of the population by the end of the century, according to City analysts Laing & Buisson.

However the cost of PMI is also rising, by more than the rate of inflation. Last year the average price went up by nearly 6 per cent, which was mostly due to increased claims rather than hospital or specialists' fees.

The exclusive image of private health care is slowly being undermined, with younger people less likely to put up with playing political roulette with their health. With more people worried about the downgrading of the NHS, insurers have introduced a wide variety of options. Budget cover, particularly, is becoming more popular. The plans on offer range from budget policies which only pay out if the NHS waiting list is longer than six weeks through standard plans to top-of-the-range schemes.

The latter give a full refund for most treatments, including accommodation, complex surgery, psychiatric and pregnancy cover. Many insurers also offer three or four different bands of cover, usually ranked A to D. The A bed is equivalent to a four or five star hotel, where D is often a pay bed in an NHS hospital. Other insurers base their premiums on your postcode. So anyone living in central London or Edinburgh is likely to pay a higher rate, whereas people who live closer to the smaller regional hospitals would be charged at lower rates. All the insurers are keen to stress that the difference in rates in no way affects the quality of treatment on offer.

One disadvantage of PMI is that it usually excludes existing medical conditions. Pregnancy and dental care are also areas where it is important to study the small print. Generally pregnancy is covered only by the most expensive plans and dental treatment only if an overnight stay in hospital is required.

Another factor which affects the cost of cover is whether or not out- patient cover is included. Without this the cost is reduced dramatically. But remember that PMI is only for the treatment of acute conditions, or in other words, short-term illnesses. Chronic conditions and long-term or recurring illnesses are excluded. These are covered by critical illness and permanent health insurance policies instead.

Abbey Life: 01202 292373

BUPA: 0171-353 5212

CIGNA: 0171-626 8744

Exeter Friendly Society: 01392 75361

Guardian Health: 01303 850303

Norwich Union: 01703 266533

PPP: 01892 512345

Prime Health: 01483 440550

Sun Alliance: 01403 232323

Western Provident Association: 01823 623000

Standard private medical insurance plans: annual premiums

Company Plan name Single male, Couple, male aged Family, male aged 40

aged 30 50, female aged 47 aged 37, 2 children

pounds pounds pounds

Abbey Life Health Care 374.28 964.08 957.24

Budget Healthcare 173.64 527.16 575.64

Bupa Bupa Care 453.75 1195.44 1230.12

CIGNA Personal Healthcare 757.48 1686.92 1995.06

Exeter Friendly 50 Plus Preferred 507.09 1203.84 1313.80

Society Low Cost 333.12 882.21 928.14

Guardian Health AEGIS 369.99 1055.70 1050.60

AEGIS Value 277.53 791.86 788.04

Norwich Union Express Care 460.88 1342.43 1386.46

Trust Care 307.13 829.27 914.27

Personal Care 173.40 471.60 554.40

PPP Classic 441.67 1075.02 1026.13

Value 144.94 361.00 338.38

Prime Health Primecare 262.70 707.85 743.20

Sun Alliance Health First 180.00 492.00 540.00

Western Provident Cedar 399.59 1098.72 1017.36

Association

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
Sport
Sean Abbott
cricketSean Abbott is named Australia's young cricketer of the year
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Client Services Manager - Relationship Management - London

£30000 - £32000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Recruitment Genius: Credit Controller / Customer Service

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding business...

Guru Careers: In-House / Internal Recruiter

£25 - 28k + Bonus: Guru Careers: An In-house / Internal Recruiter is needed to...

Recruitment Genius: Tax Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Tax Assistant is required to join a leading ...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea