When deciding on the type and extent of health insurance, make sure that it covers all your family’s present and future health requirements. A health insurance policy should cover you for all essential health care, whatever the reason, including accidents (e.g. sports accidents) and injuries, whether they occur in your home, at your place of work or while traveling.

When comparing policies, carefully check the extent of cover, and exactly what’s included and excluded from a policy (often indicated only in the very small print), in addition to premiums and excess charges.

Although there may be significant differences in premiums, generally you get what you pay for and can tailor premiums to your requirements. The most important questions to ask yourself are: does the policy provide the cover required and is it good value? If you’re in good health and are able to pay for your own outpatient treatment, such as visits to your family doctor and prescriptions, the best value is usually a policy covering only specialist and hospital treatment.

Younger, fitter people often buy limited coverage, for serious conditions (a list of over 50 chronic conditions is specified in some policies), and pay for minor treatment themselves. In other schemes, your insurance covers only a percentage (e.g. 80 per cent) of claims and you must pay the balance yourself (in effect an excess or deductible), for which you pay a lower premium than for 100 per cent coverage.

Private policies vary considerably in price, depending on their scope and the percentage coverage, although costs are higher for comprehensive cover and the elderly. Many companies, retirement groups, and other organizations offer lower rates and some South African employers pay 50 per cent of key employees’ health insurance costs.

Shop around and compare policies, which vary considerably: some have particularly murky small print that entitles the insurer to avoid paying almost any claim! It’s well worth seeking out and speaking to one of our consultants who will give you the best option.