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Six myths about private medical insurance

Article by Simon Christopher
Article added: 29/10/2010 - Last updated: -
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1. Pre-existing conditions aren't covered

This may be true in the United States, where health insurance is more widespread, but is often not the case in the UK.

Many policies run a moratorium system, by which any condition you've suffered in the past is not covered at the start of the policy, but is covered once you've had the policy for two years without suffering the condition. If you only suffered the condition five or more years before taking out the policy and were then declared "cured" by a doctor, you may be covered immediately when the policy starts.

2. Every condition is covered

In most cases chronic conditions aren't covered. These are conditions that are considered incurable. Generally they last for a long time, if not permanently, and treatment is to reduce symptoms rather than remove a disease. Examples include asthma and HIV.

3. I'll have to give a full medical history

Some insurers use a medical history declaration. Under this system you do have to fill in a form answering all questions honestly, and the insurer may ask your doctor for more details. With this system, the insurer tells you from the start of the policy which pre-existing conditions are covered.

Under the moratorium system, described above, you don't have to give medical details. The insurer will then treat each condition on a case by case basis. It's important to note that any conditions that developed in the five years before the policy started but you couldn't reasonably have been expected to know about will be covered.

4. If I switch providers, the pre-existing exclusions period starts over

This usually isn't the case. Most insurers use a system known as Continued Personal Medical Exclusion, by which a customer can transfer to a new insurer and carry over their cover status for pre-existing conditions.

5. I'm stuck with the insurer's choice of hospital for treatment

This depends entirely on the insurer and the plan offered. Some insurers insist you use a particular private hospital, or network of hospitals, while others offer more flexibility.

6. Permanent Health Insurance is simply medical insurance that lasts forever

In fact permanent health insurance does not relate to the costs of medical treatment at all. Its an insurance against loss of income due to a serious injury or illness. The precise terms vary, but usually there'll be a set period of illness before payouts start, and then the covered person will get between 50% and 70% of their usual salary. This continues until the person is fit enough to work again, but the policy usually ceases on the 65th birthday. The policy is valid for as long as the customer makes payments, but there is usually a minimum term of five years.

PLEASE NOTE: The guidance published in this article is for information only and does not constitute financial advice or a recommendation of any particular product or company. If you are in any doubt please consult an independent insurance adviser. A database of advisers in your area is available at

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