Health insurance for over 50’s – what you need to know

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Once upon a time in a land not that far away, those people hurtling at warp speed towards  their impending retirement would be depicted as folk sat on rocking chairs with tartan rugs draped across their legs, staring out of rain-soaked windows while nursing a mug of tea, reminiscing about the past.

Of course even back then this perception was far from the actual truth of the matter, yet here in 2015 this twee image couldn’t be physically any further from the truth if there was several million light years between.

Today the over-50s can be spotted at will circumnavigating the globe, often experiencing their second, third and fourth flushes of youth, throwing themselves head long into fresh challenges which they’d either never contemplated previously or (usually for growing family reasons/responsibilities) never got the opportunity to enjoy.

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Now you’re just as likely to witness the more mature person flinging themselves out of a plane at altitude (complete with parachute we hasten to add) as you are competing in the slightly more pedestrian game of bridge.

Of course, if the over-50 demographic are increasingly hell bent on enjoying more adventurous retirements (and even for those who remain traditionalists at heart – and mind, soul and definitely, body – when it comes to actively slowing down the pace, turning their thoughts to the golf course and cruises), then they need to ensure that they are covered for every conceivable eventuality.

Although statistically you’re more likely to succumb to injury whilst you’re making haste on a ski slope when you’re over-50, there’s still every chance that you could just as easily come a cropper when  you’re pruning your roses or making a putt for a birdie on the tricky 9th. So it’s imperative that the cover you acquire is of the health insurance variety and comprises of a host of features which will afford you and your nearest and dearest peace of mind as you embark on the next chapter of your life.

The question is, just what do you need in terms of over-50s health insurance policies, and what constitutes a good deal these days?

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Although many people tend to have arranged their (obviously NOT over-50s) health insurance plans much earlier in life – typically around the time you’re faced with major reminders as to what’s important in life, as well as your own mortality; such as when you get married, buy a home, start a family, etc… – others don’t for various reasons.

But that’s not to say right now isn’t an equally prudent juncture to make amends.

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As the old adage implies, even sorting a health insurance policy when you’re over-50 is better late than never.

While you’re once (very) dependant family might have since grown up and flown the family nest it doesn’t necessary follow that they’re not still reliant on your income in some way. What for example if you are still paying off a hefty mortgage? If you and your regular monetary contribution suddenly ground to a halt then it would present your partner/spouse with an almighty financial challenge to maintain payments singlehandedly. And if you’ve been long identified as the predominant breadwinner in the house then there’s every chance that your other half is counting on your regular pension pot contributions generated by your income to aid a seamless transition from the world of work to the fast-approaching realm of retirement. So therefore you popping your clogs without so much as a by your leave would leave your loved ones potentially in dire financial straits.

Aside from this you might just be of the mind that it would be nice to bequeath your family/dependents a guaranteed lump sum of money as and when the time comes, so as to help fund the funeral costs, ensure that aforementioned mortgage is settled, see the children through school or university, et al. Effectively it’s called planning ahead and is something ideally we’d all like to do to ensure that at least one aspect of your demise won’t be as painful for those you leave in your wake.

Health insurance – better late than never…

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Despite the wonderful work that the National Health Service does here in the UK, it’s constantly under pressure from all quarters and has become a victim of its own success in recent years.

This often means consultant and hospital waiting lists are growing increasingly longer which ultimately could have longer term health implications in certain cases. Which explains why more and more people are turning to private insurance firms to offer them a fast-track route – and broader access – to healthcare provisions.

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Also, dedicated health insurance policies of this nature give the insured party greater choice as to the where, when and by whom they’ll be treated question – which otherwise remains outstanding with regards to the NHS.

Indeed the obvious benefits of opting for a far-reaching health insurance plan are relatively well-documented, with freedom of choice being a recurrent theme. A choice of consultant and/or private hospitals highlights the flexibility offered by plumping for this type of widely-available package, whilst knowledge that policyholders will receive prompt referrals to specialists for early diagnosis along with the awareness that you’ll be granted a peaceful and private environment in which to convalesce in the aftermath of any future hospital procedures is key to the decision-making process to many who have made the switch.

Looking at the range of healthcare aspects you’ll be privy to courtesy of an all-encompassing health insurance policy and the following features are flagged up by most providers, depending of course on the type of over-50s health plan you elect to go with at the time;

In-patient and day-patient treatment – This routinely includes prompt access as a private patient, surgeons’, anaesthetists’ and physicians’ fees being covered by the policy, the costs of overnight accommodation being met along with operating theatre and nursing costs.

Out-patient treatment – For the most part surgical procedures will be covered, as will access to radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatments (except on the most basic of health policies), consultations and diagnostic tests, out-patient CT, MRI and PET Scans, practitioner and physiotherapist charges and even in the majority of instances, therapist, homeopath and acupuncturist fees.

Additional over-50s health insurance policy benefits may also include some or all of the following;

  • Optional health cash benefits cover
  • Fast track appointments service
  • GP telephone consultation service
  • Round-the-clock access to a health information telephone service
  • Home-nursing provisions and recuperative care

Other elements found within the typical parameters of health insurance packages geared-up for the over-50s demographic also make for encouraging reading. Especially when being made aware that anyone considering taking out such a policy won’t be subject to a barrage of probing health-related questions; aimed at determining if you’re likely to become dearly departed in the foreseeable.

While elsewhere there’s no up close and personal medical screening or rudimentary examination to face from the outset, which contrasts sharply with other popular personal insurance products such as life and income protection policies.

Having recognised above the majority of features which do form the nucleus of a good over-50s health insurance policy, it’s valid to conversely point out one of those which is excluded from day one, as there’s some conditions that will never be covered, not even by the remit of a fully comprehensive policy. This includes voluntary or elective medical treatment like cosmetic surgery.

Different health insurance levels of cover

Now that we’ve established that, next we take a look at the level of cover available for the over-50s in the realms of health insurance, and ostensibly there are the three choices, more usually categorised as budget, standard and comprehensive.

Naturally the more you pay for the package then the more expansive the cover is to which you’re entitled. But before running the rule of insurance levels you must decide upon which type of over-50s health insurance plan makes sense in relation to your individual circumstances.

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Again there are a trio from which to make your personal selection, namely ‘moratorium, full medical underwriting’ and ‘switch’.

The former affords the policyholder quick and simple application without medical disclosure. Precise terms vary between insurance providers but generally you will not be covered for any conditions that you have had in the previous 5 years but you will regain cover for those if you remain symptom, advice, treatment and medication-free during the first 2 years of your new policy.

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Full Medical Underwriting (or FMU) requests that the proposer furnishes the provider with their full medical history on application and the insurance company may exclude cover for pre-existing conditions but will tell you what is excluded before you finalise your commitment to purchase.

Switch (or CPME – Continuing Personal Medical Exclusions), the latter option is designed specifically for those would-be policyholders intent on switching from an existing policy to a new one on ‘switch/CPME’ terms. In this guise the insurance company will continue to cover conditions that arose since your took out your old policy and will not add any extra exclusions.

Finally, there are a few different ways in which you could potentially reduce the cost of your over-50s health insurance policy, and are well worth following up if you wish to reduce what might be an immovable premium object. These habitually include building up and protecting a no claims bonus, agreeing to pay a higher excess, agreeing to be treated by the NHS if it is within a specific timeframe (usually 6 weeks), opting for treatment from a restricted list of hospitals, agreeing to pay a proportion of the full treatment costs and/or reducing the level of cover by opting out of some of the outpatient elements of the cover.

Tailoring your over-50s health insurance can both cut the cost and ensure you’re still covered for the most likely contingencies. Some Health Insurance plans specifically developed for older people have a larger excess or exclude certain conditions in a bid to keep premiums more affordable, so it’s vital that you read the all-important T’s & C’s and compare a range of health insurance plans to make sure you are happy with the level of cover.