5-minute guide to health cash plans

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All you need to know about the health insurance policies that let you claim dental, optical and physio costs – without the hefty premiums

If you can’t stretch to private medical insurance, there are a number of budget options that can either be bought directly or through an employer to insure you against the expense of certain treatments such as optical, dental and physio costs. Philip Wood at health cash plan experts Health Shield and Jeremy Chadwick of vision and eye care specialists VSP Vision Care explain the value of these benefits.

Dental insurance can save you money

Dental insurance usually covers the cost of regular dental treatment, emergencies or other serious dental problems. This could include fillings or scaling treatment that a dentist or hygienist might carry out every few months, while emergency treatment usually involves correcting problems that requires immediate attention like infected teeth, abscesses, cysts or damage from an accident. Health cash plans cover NHS equivalent charges for dental treatments, some providers will even reimburse cosmetic dental treatments like tooth whitening; a service that may not otherwise be an option for some people.

The benefits of comprehensive eye checks

Stand-alone optical insurance may be provided by your employer and involves benefits such as a full annual eye test that is more comprehensive than the standard high street or VDU user test. In addition to checking your vision, the test can also highlight health issues not directly eye-related but which can be detected through the eye, such as diabetes and high cholesterol levels. The cost of the eye test and any subsequent spectacles or contact lenses should then be covered up to a pre-agreed maximum limit.

Don’t wait months for a physio appointment

Treatment for chronic conditions like back pain that require a physiotherapist tend to involve a long waiting time if done through the NHS. Health cash plan policies tend to include physio cover as part of their core benefits and allow you to claim back the cost of going private, which will cut down the waiting time. This is a less expensive way to access the private system than private medical insurance.

Ask your employer about health cash plans

Health cash plans are becoming increasingly popular as an inexpensive employee benefit. They tend to come with optical, dental and physio as core parts of their cover and reimburse up to 100% of the cost of treatment, which can be done privately, up to a maximum annual limit. Most company paid policies also cover pre-existing conditions. Check with your employer to see if they offer a health cash plan as part of their employee benefits. Health cash plans can also be bought individually.

Check additional benefits

Health insurance policies can come with additional benefits such as online GP consultations, counselling, private prescription services and rewards such as discounts and cashback on shopping, entertainment, travel and days out. So do check your policy as to what you may be eligible to claim.

What healthcare plans cost

When buying directly – as opposed to through an employer – the price is based on the level of cover you’re after. This is because cash plans are not risk based in the same way as private medical insurance (PMI) plans are. The pricing tends to be based on existing client profiles. So typically, you can expect to pay £10 to £20 monthly for an entry-level policy. However, when buying through an employer the premiums may change depending on the gender and age of the firm’s employees as a whole.