High Price When a Health Perk Ends; Alternatives as Cost of Cover Soars in Retirement

Article excerpt

Byline: EDMUND TIRBUTT

WORKERS who have enjoyed the company perk of private medical insurance face soaring bills for cover when they retire.

Premiums soar when they have to be paid without an employer's help.

And they are likely to rise fast each year from the age of 60.

There are two ways to keep premiums under control - using the continuation option from an employer's scheme, or switching to a different provider.

Continuation options are attractive for anyone with recurring health problems because an insurer will cover conditions that have already been treated. But when switching to another insurer, previously known conditions are normally excluded.

Michael Payne of specialist intermediary Health Plan in Colchester, Essex, says: 'If you have a serious condition that is likely to need hospital treatment, it is usually better to take the continuation option.

'But it often has to be taken up within 30 days of leaving an employer's group scheme and companies do not always notify staff that it's available.

'So the first step should be to contact a scheme's insurer to find out if there is a continuation option.

'For those with only minor recurring conditions, the situation is less clear because cost savings made by switching may make it worth putting up with small exclusions on the new plan.

'It can be possible to switch provider and remain covered if the condition is unlikely to need further hospital treatment because Bupa under its Heartbeat policy and Clinicare are sometimes willing to cover existing conditions.' Retired company director Brian Thomas, 65, looked at both options when he left his group scheme with Bupa last month and settled for continuation.

Brian has been treated for high blood pressure in recent years, and his wife Janet, 64, who is also covered by the policy, has had cataract operations on both eyes. Treatment

for these conditions would have been excluded if they had switched to another healthcare provider. …