A Guide to Health Cover for the Self-Employed

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A Guide to Health Cover for the Self-Employed

What you want from your health insurance

Self-employed people know what they want - and that´s just as true of health cover as anything else.

  • Know where you stand: There´s nothing worse than being under the impression that you are covered only to find out too late that you´re not. Make sure you know exactly what you´re covered for and what´s excluded from the outset.
  • You want treatment quickly and in clean, efficient hospitals when you need it. That´s the main reason why you took out cover in the first place
  • You don´t want an insurer who makes claiming difficult. The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) website will show you how many complaints have been made against insurers. Some insurers also have the details of the number of FOS complaints upheld against them. From this you will get an idea how insurers treat their customers;
  • You want an easy claims procedure. It is distressing enough to be ill without having to quibble about every part of every claim.
  • Price. You don´t want to pay over the odds - but neither do you want to take out what seems to be a bargain plan only to find premiums rocket in future years.

The self-employed in particular need to be treated as a special case.

There is no point in taking out a plan that does not suit your needs when there are bespoke plans out there suited to your needs. With some insurers, the different needs of the self-employed customers are responded to. Their self reliance and their desire to look after their own needs are reflected in the cover and its cost.

Just as important as knowing what you want from your health cover is knowing what you don´t want:

Let´s assume your GP recommends that you see a particular consultant for your treatment. Some health insurers allow customers, in conjunction with their GP to choose their consultant while others have approved consultant lists - basically, it is based on cost and low cost is rarely a proxy for quality. If the one you´ve been recommended isn´t on that list then you either have to find another or pay the difference yourself. That´s all you need if you are unwell - and particularly if your business is suffering with all the extra time you´ll have to take off to find help that your insurer approves of

  • Health insurance is meant to be there as a backup if anything goes wrong. But when your health is at risk you don´t want to put off claiming - your condition won´t cure itself. If you are not claiming because you are worried that a claim will result in your premiums rocketing then you have the wrong policy.
  • The self-employed are naturally cost conscious. So health plans that promise no-claims discounts may seem attractive. But they can be a false economy - make one claim and your premiums could go through the roof
  • Self reliance is the motif of the self employed. So being told which hospital/course of treatment you can/can´t have goes against the grain. Make sure your health insurer gives you choices and lets you make the decisions about where and when you are treated.
  • Waiting list plans. With these, if your GP says that the wait for your treatment on the NHS exceeds the waiting criteria (usually six weeks), the policy springs into action and you can go private. However, any wait - even a couple of weeks - will be too long for many of the time-poor self-employed.
  • Do make sure before opting for a policy that you know what you are buying. That means reading the small print so you know what you are covered for. Some policies may limit the extent you are covered for cancer drugs, for example. Other insurers will allow you to bolt on extra cancer cover. Comprehensive policies will pay for advanced drugs otherwise unavailable on the NHS.

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