As with other types of insurance, it is wise to regularly check the product you have and make sure you are getting the best deal. If you have not reviewed your plan for a few years, now is the perfect time to check you are not paying more than you should be. The internet makes it easy to research policies in the comfort of your own home, but you should also telephone specialist advisers for help when you need it.
When can I switch health insurance plans?
It is normally best to switch your medical insurance provider at the end of a policy year. This is because some health insurance providers will apply financial penalties for cancelling an insurance policy mid-way through the year before a renewal is due. You may also find that you lose some of the premiums you have already paid if you switch early.
Check your paperwork to find out when your current policy is due to renew, and see if any penalties are due. Also, make sure you are well-informed about the alternative products before the notice period on your current plan approaches.
Don’t duplicate cover when you switch
Before you switch your health insurance to a new provider, it’s also worth reviewing what kind of healthcare you are offered at work. Some employers offer healthcare as a perk of their employment contract, from free eye tests through to full-blown business medical insurance policies. A renewal, or a switch, is an ideal time to re-evaluate any healthcare provision you may already have and alter your insurance accordingly.
Things to be aware of when switching medical insurance
Obviously, you need to make sure that your cover is suitable for you. This usually means it should match, or exceed, the provision of your current policy. There may be some circumstances where you wish to reduce cover in certain areas; this may be applicable to modular policies where optional extras have been added, such as dental care. However, in general, you should be checking if any limits apply on the amount of care that can be provided (either per condition or per calendar year). If limits do apply, you need to make sure they are acceptable to you.
It’s also really important to check the arrangements around pre-existing conditions. Some insurers will carry on treating you for acute conditions that occurred while you were insured with your last provider under a clause known as ‘No worst terms’. Other insurers will count anything you have been treated for as pre-existing and exclude these conditions from future claims.
Some insurance companies exclude pre-existing illnesses for two years after you switch, so if your condition is unlikely to recur, this may be an acceptable compromise. If you are already receiving treatment under your existing policy, this is a very important distinction. Lack of cover for an acute condition which recurs could make your new, cheaper policy very costly and inconvenient in the long term. Whatever the case, if you have pre-existing conditions, don’t feel you are locked in to your current plan. There may be another product which is right for you, and we would recommend you seek advice from a professional medical insurance adviser.
Remember: even if your ideal policy looks cheaper, any fees, charges or lost premiums could quickly swallow up the savings you might be making. When you telephone your existing provider to cancel, always make sure you ask exactly how much the cancellation is going to cost you, and weigh this up against the benefits of your new plan.
What if I still can’t afford my premiums?
As you age, you will also find that your premiums naturally increase as you become statistically more likely to fall ill with certain types of acute conditions. The monthly payments you have to make will also go up as new, more expensive treatments and drugs become available.
Because the cost of health insurance is rising beyond inflation, a sub-set of insurers are now offering basic, low-cost policies. These often include a foundation set of policy options that can be tailored with add-ons for more expensive treatments. If you need to economise, choose a basic policy with modular components rather than risking cancelling your insurance altogether.
Where can I go for advice?
If you need help in comparing insurance policies, a professional health insurance adviser or broker will be able to help. Try to arrange a telephone consultation around six weeks before your current policy comes up for renewal to go through all your options in detail.