Six-week option plans sold with private medical insurance should come with a health warning, according to the Association of Medical Insurance Intermediaries.
The options offer a premium discount of around 20 per cent and provide immediate treatment if treatment is not available on the NHS within six weeks.
But AMII chairman Andrew Tripp says: “Where I think these policies are dangerous is that , in the event of somebody having a heart attack or road traffic accident, for example, where treatment is available on the NHS immediately, then PMI customers will not be able to use their cover for any subsequent treatment required for that condition.
“Consumers do not understand the implications of these six-week options and I think that they should come with a health warning.”
PMI Partners managing director Ian Sawyer says: “Six-week options have a role to play but it is not something I recommend. What is the point of buying private healthcare to potentially end up with NHS healthcare instead?”
Providers offering six-week options include Aviva, Axa and Standard Life.
An Axa spokesman says that under the company’s six-week option, policyholders can still claim for eligible private treatments such as outpatient physiotherapy or surgery if they have had NHS treatment.
Aviva senior proposition development manager Kevin Murdoch says six-week options offer customers a cost-effective alternative.
He says: “To ensure that customers are fully aware of the option and its implications, we have worked hard to ensure that our policy documentation is written in clear, concise language and that our advisers fully explain the option at point of sale, renewal and claim stage.”
Aviva states in its pre-sales brochure that six-week options will not cover inpatient or day-patient treatment if it is available on the NHS within six weeks. Outpatient treatment is not affected.