If you’ve had enough of battling to get the kids a doctor’s appointment, or don’t want them waiting months to be seen by a specialist, there is an alternative. You could take out children’s private medical insurance that will pay for some or all of the diagnosis and treatment your child may require.
Such policies come with a long list of benefits. For example, most offer same-day video and phone consultations and can arrange specialist appointments and procedures much faster more than through the NHS. ‘Another valued benefit,’ says Kevin Pratt, consumer affairs editor at MoneySupermarket.com, ‘is the cash payment that is made to the parent for each night that a child has to stay in hospital. This can be used to pay expensive car-parking fees or other expenses that crop up.’
Of course, there’s a price for speed and convenience, but there’s a variety of policies available offering different levels of cover to suit most budgets.
‘Parents have a couple of options when it comes to getting health insurance for their children,’ explains Pratt. ‘They could take out a policy for the whole family, or they could insure the children on a separate plan. The adults might go down this route if they have cover for themselves already, perhaps through their employer.’
Whether taken as an add-on to a parent’s policy or bought as a stand-alone product, children’s medical insurance is commonly available with a basic, mid-range or comprehensive level of cover. At the basic end, policies usually include benefits such as access to a 24-hour medical helpline and diagnostic tests such as CT and MRI scans and specialists’ fees while a child is in hospital. But outpatient care and psychiatric treatment are common exclusions. Meanwhile, mid-range policies tend to offer more outpatient services, such as scans and specialist consultations. And at the the top end, comprehensive policies usually offer private GP services as well as outpatient physiotherapy and psychiatric treatment.
Private medical insurance for children is still a relatively niche area of the protection market, with companies including Aviva, Bupa and AXA being the some of the most well-known providers. And it’s not as easy to research and compare policies and premiums online as it is, say, car or contents insurance. Comparison website GoCompare.com, for instance, only compiles data on policies that apply to those aged 18 and above. And while MoneySupermarket does compare cover for children, it assumes a voluntary excess of zero, even though customers are likely to agree to pay an excess in return for lower premiums. So it is wise to follow up any online research by phoning insurers directly to get an idea of the cost of policies suitable for your particular requirements. But to give a rough idea of the costs to expect, based on a MoneySupermarket search for a stand-alone policy for two children aged 12 and 9 respectively, see the table below.
Source: MoneySuperMarket, 22 February, 2017 (Notes: assumes everyone covered is in good health and policies have a voluntary excess of £0)
Rachel Springall from personal finance website Moneyfacts.co.uk warns parents that one of the key areas of child-only health insurance to be aware of is exclusions. ‘You could have a plan exclude any pre-existing medical conditions, so checking the terms and conditions is really important – the cheapest plan isn’t always the best choice to get the best possible package.’
She adds: ‘Parents would also be wise to check that they are comfortable with the excess on the plan and whether it has additional benefits, such as accommodation for parents and whether the hospital is the most local.’
Only you can tell whether private health insurance for your children is appropriate for your family. But before you buy, consider the Money Advice Service website which states that being worried about your child becoming sick doesn’t mean you ‘need’ private medical insurance because children get immediate priority on the NHS.
Laura Whitcombe is knowledge and product editor at ThisisMoney.co.uk.