Some insurance policies allow you to get specialist treatment abroad (AMV Photo)
MORE people are resorting to private medical insurance, as they fear the NHS will not provide the treatment they want or need.
The recent case of Ashya King, the five-year-old whose parents removed him from hospital to seek medical care abroad, has highlighted how some urgent health issues may benefit from medical attention unavailable in the UK.
Brett and Naghemeh King are now in Prague where their son is set to receive proton beam therapy, unavailable in the UK, for a brain tumour.
Private medical insurance could be the best way to pay for treatments not available here. However, these policies can be very expensive.
Rob Saunders, the head of life insurance at compare- themarket.com, said: “We have seen a 20%-30% increase in people taking out private medical insurance over the past 18 months, perhaps due to continued NHS funding issues.”
This month the broker Insurance Tailors will start offering a private medical insurance product called Preferred Care, which gives policyholders with a critical illness access to “world-leading” treatment in America.
Underwritten by Lloyd’s of London, it offers diagnosis at Harvard Medical School and then free treatment in one of the top 1% of American hospitals for that condition. The insurance can cover heart surgery, cancer treatment — including proton beam therapy — organ transplants and other procedures. All treatments and drugs are paid for directly by the policy, up to $2m (£1.2m). It will also cover travel to America and accommodation for the patient and a companion.
Cover will cost £149 a year for those under 19. The price will be £786 for someone in their late forties, and £2,130 for those in their late sixties. The policy will be available directly to consumers and through some employers. It claims to give a 30% increased chance of survival.
Andrew Boldt of Insurance Tailors said: “This product has specifically been created to focus on illnesses that have the biggest impact on people’s lives, and where there are distinct differences between the treatments available in the UK and in America.
“Standard medical insurance policies do not provide for a diagnosis to be checked by world-leading experts in America. The US is unique in having an annual league table of hospitals by condition, so it is possible to identify the top hospitals for any particular condition.”
Bupa Global allows policyholders to be treated abroad under its Worldwide Health Options product. Bupa UK offers cancer cover that provides treatment in the UK and access to services and drugs not offered by the NHS.
Axa provides cover that gives access to treatments not available under the NHS, including overseas. Saga does not cover treatment abroad, but offers extended cancer cover for people over 50 with a wider range of drugs than is available from the NHS.
Angela Clifton of Saga said: “The NHS can use drugs only once Nice (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) has approved them specifically for the NHS — that constraint does not apply to private medical treatment.
“We provide cover once a drug is licensed and when the drug is used for eligible treatment in line with that licence. A good example is the breast cancer drug Kadcyla. Though Nice rejected it for the NHS in August, the drug itself had been licensed since November 2013.”
Private medical insurance costs can spiral, so pay close attention to the terms and watch out for exclusions. Matt Sanders of gocompare.com said: “While average premiums can be a useful indication of how much medical cover is likely to cost, it is important to remember that this can vary significantly based on your circumstances and medical history.
“It is important to ensure that the policy is tailored to your circumstances and will provide you with the level of medical cover you require. This means fully disclosing all relevant medical history.”
If you do take out private cover, be aware that you can save money and benefits by switching each year. Saunders at comparethemarket.com said: “Less than 5% of policyholders switch annual policies, which given that the average saving is £600, is very low. Many people are not aware they can switch policies and retain insurance cover on existing conditions.”