People are leaving it too late before taking out private medical insurance, according to research by health insurance broker ActiveQuote.

Its survey of 2,000 people in the UK revealed four out of five (85%) people do not have PMI, while one in three (31%) said they would be more likely to consider it if they or a relative fell ill, or if they could be covered for a pre-existing condition.

Those without cover estimated its cost to be twice as much as it is, the survey revealed, while 19% of policyholders said the cost of their single monthly premium was more ‘cost-effective’ than paying their medical bills individually.

Mark Todd, ActiveQuote health insurance team leader, said: ‘These survey findings are very telling in that people still don’t quite understand what private medical insurance is.

‘Many PMI providers won’t cover people if they have an existing medical condition. If they do cover them, there’s a deferred period of a minimum of two years, depending on the existing condition. With PMI, it is important to take it out before you are ill.

‘We don’t buy home insurance on the basis that we’ll only try and get cover should we damage something in our home, and it’s the same with private medical insurance.’