We know that Britain is a nation of pet lovers, but it seems we are so focused on our furry (and furless) friends that we put their protection before our own. A recent study from Cirencester Friendly shows that we are twice as likely to take out insurance on our pets as on ourselves.

A third of the UK (33%) said they have, or would take out pet insurance to protect their animals should they require medical help – that number rising to 38% of women. The number has increased by more than 50% in three years, with just 21% of respondents saying they have or would consider taking out pet insurance in 2016.

This is in stark contrast to the 17% of people who say they have or would have Income Protection Insurance. In addition, Private Medical Insurance appears to be an even lower priority in the UK, with recent statistics from the Association of British Insurers revealing that just 1.7million people currently have Private Medical Insurance – just over 3% of the adult population.

Yet, with the uncertainty surrounding the effects of Brexit on the NHS and its existing staff, the underfunding of its services and talk of privatisation, there has never been a wiser time to consider protecting yourself and your family with a Private Medical Insurance policy. After all, you may well be providing your dog with a similar level of protection already…

What is Private Medical Insurance?

If you find yourself with a short-term illness or injury, Private Medical Insurance (PMI) is designed to cover the cost of treatment. Usually, a policy only covers what are considered “acute” conditions: diseases, illnesses or injuries that respond quickly to treatment that aims to return you to your state of health before said issue, or that leads to a full recovery.

Recurring, continuing or long-term treatment of chronic conditions is not usually covered, though “episodes” or “flare-ups” of these conditions may be included in the policy.

What does it cover?

Individual or family PMI can be tailored to your current needs, potential future needs and budget, and is not designed to completely replace the services offered by the NHS, such as Accident & Emergency treatment. You can choose the level of cover that is right for you, as well as a number of optional areas of cover to be included within your policy.

It is possible to set annual limits on outpatient cover and the level of cancer cover you wish to be insured for. There is also the potential to add or remove such things as psychiatric cover, travel cover and dental cover, as well as control the selection of hospitals or surgeons available for treatment.

Pre-existing conditions are often not included, or the policy will likely put exclusions in place surrounding the condition.

What affects the cost?

When you take out PMI, cost usually varies according to age, as well as your height, weight and smoker status. Your claims history can also have a big impact, with some insurers offering no claims discounts and increasing premiums significantly if you make a large claim. The underwriting method, level of cover and choice of “extras”, as well as containment features, such as an excess or outpatient limit, will also mean variations in price.

Even if you don’t make a claim, premiums can go up as age increases, medical inflation is running high, or there have been rises in Insurance Premium Tax.

What are the pros of PMI?

When you or a loved one fall ill it can be a stressful time and knowing you are covered for the best possible treatment offers peace of mind. Private Medical Insurance will typically allow access to an increased range of medical resources and specialist treatments and drugs, some of which may not be readily available on the NHS. It can also offer various treatments throughout the recovery process, such as physiotherapy, which may not always be state-approved in your situation or within your area.

It offers instant access to care, rather than enduring waiting times at your GP or hospital. It can also give you much more choice and control, making your treatment significantly more pleasant – allowing you to specify your hospital and often your doctor, as well as having access to a private room.

Some people have PMI as part of their workplace benefits, but for those who do not, it can be a smart way to supplement the services available on the NHS and ensure you and/or your family have access to the best care possible as quickly as possible.

Other cover

Medical insurance can help to protect your health, but what about your finances should you fall ill? Each year one million people in the UK are unable to work due to serious illness or injury. Income Protection Insurance can provide a regular income to help pay your mortgage and look after your family to avoid you relying solely on sick pay from work or dipping into your savings.

There is also a specific Mortgage Payment Protection that will pay your mortgage for a set period of time (often between 12 and 24 months) should injury, illness, or involuntary unemployment mean you are unable to meet your mortgage payments.

Critical Illness Cover can pay a lump sum if you are diagnosed with one of the illnesses specified in your plan and survive for a set period of time after diagnosis. It can be used to pay unexpected bills such as nursing care, home help, travel expenses, and adapting your home to accommodate a disability, as well as paying off your mortgage or covering a holiday to aid recovery from treatment.

Should the worst happen, Life Cover helps to provide for your loved ones, paying them a lump sum or regular income in the event of you passing away unexpectedly.

While many people consider a monthly premium to protect their pet an obvious choice, it is important to extend that due diligence to yourself and your family. There are a number of options, from very basic cover to more extensive cover that comes with a higher premium. An adviser will help to assess the level of cover and price that works best for your individual circumstances, so you can rest assured that you are doing all you can to keep yourself and your family safe.