The thought of private medical insurance can often be a tad anxiety-inducing. Images of people unable to afford the care they need in the USA might spring to mind – paying for medical care is still a fraught topic of debate in the States.
But as a matter of fact, more and more people in the UK are opting for private medical care, despite the existence of the NHS. The question is, why?
Here, we’ve collected some bits and bobs of useful information on private medical insurance. You’ll find all you need to know on the perks and the ploys of going private, and why some companies think it’s a good idea to offer private medical insurance as a work perk.
So, for starters, it’s useful to point out that most UK residents are entitled to free healthcare from the NHS.
Some people, however, opt to use private services. This can be paid for by medical insurance.
Just like any insurance – for instance, the one you purchased last week for your car, or the one you’re planning on sorting for your next holiday to France – medical insurance covers you when something goes wrong with your health.
Health insurance covers most medical bills if you’re treated privately. Depending on what cover you opt for, also like most insurance covers, you can decide what level of care you receive and when or how it is provided.
A basic cover usually covers the cost of most in-patient treatments, such as routine tests or different types of surgery, from day-care to longer term operations.
Some policies offer out-patient treatments too. Out-patient treatments cover the cost of specialists or consultants – this might be for people needing therapy for mental health, for sportspeople who need advice on a recurring back twinge, or someone with a skin problem needing a dermatologist’s opinion.
There are things that aren’t covered though, too. For instance, things like organ transplants, cosmetic surgery or injuries caused my chronic illnesses such as diabetes, epilepsy or HIV/AIDS-related illnesses are not covered.
The above can be covered by the NHS in most cases. Though the NHS probably won’t pay for your nose job if it’s purely to look like your fave celeb.
So, who’s been harking on about the pros of private treatments and why?
According to recent statistics, in the UK, private providers have seen an annual increase from 15% to 25% in the number of “self-payers”, as patients turn to savings, loans and private health insurance to cover medical care.
Here are a few reasons why patients might be going private:
Reduced hospital waiting times
Let’s start with the biggest bonus of private medical insurance – the waiting times! While the brits are known for their patience – we’re world famous for how well we form a queue - we’re all secretly, internally blaspheming everyone that makes us wait more than 5 minutes when we have an appointment.
We’ve all been there: “It’s 5.00pm. My appointment was at 4.30pm. Why am I still waiting!?” It’s frustrating, isn’t it? NHS waiting times are accused of being one of the main factors pushing UK residents to go private.
For those of you who suffer from chronic impatience, you could be cured by going private. Going private will mean you have instant, on demand access to care.
Increased medical resources
While waiting times are reduced, your medical resources are increased. Private hospitals can offer a wide range of specialist treatments and can provide longer term recovery treatments, such as for those undergoing post-chemotherapy or physiotherapy, for example.
You can ask your GP for a referral if you want a second opinion, and you can also get a scan, or several, as and when you need – also something you often have to wait for when relying on the NHS.
A range of specialist treatments
Following on from the above, going private can mean you are able to get treatments which are not available on the NHS. This might be because it’s either too costly to be covered by the state or simply not approved by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence in England and Wales (NICE).
Specialist drugs and medication might also become available to you. Just like some treatments are unapproved by NICE, some drugs are only prescribed privately.
Funnily enough, privacy
Potentially a redundant point to make but going private gives you privacy. You can choose your hospital, your doctor, your surgeon and your treatment room. The medical care is your oyster, as the old adage goes.
But private medical insurance isn’t all fun and games. There are downsides, unfortunately, of not using the NHS.
Cuts to the NHS
Unfortunately, in recent years, the NHS have experienced major funding cuts. This means that some patients are losing trust in its services.
In 2017, hospitals in the UK had to deploy 4,000 extra beds to manage the extra demand. More investments are still needed, but there isn’t funding. This means patients are often rushed out of hospital beds early because there simply aren’t enough.
The excessive pressure placed on the NHS has led a lot of people to feel they may have more luck going private, where there appears to be more funding, more time available for patients, and generally less stress.
For starters, going private could cost you an arm and a leg – potentially pun intended, if you don’t get the care you need.
According to the Money Advice Service, a typical family premium – covering two adults in their 40s and two children under 10 – can vary from £700 to £1,800 per year.
Location can also affect the cost, so moving house might come with a pricey increase in your insurance.
You might also want to consider the fact that even with private medical insurance, you’re still paying for the NHS through your tax – you won’t be exempt because you want to go private.
Not everything is covered
Chronic illnesses are not covered by private insurance. So if you’re a sufferer of heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure, you’ll often be excluded from healthcare policies.
Higher risk categories
Unfortunately, if you’re older or suffer from severe illnesses, your policy will be more expensive. Unlike with the NHS, where it doesn’t matter how old you are or what you suffer from, the older you get, the riskier you’ll be to insurance companies.
It’s harder to find an economic policy the older you get, which is frustrating considering the elderly are most likely to seek healthcare and medical aid.
A good example of a company soon to offer private medical care at a low cost for employees is… us! Yes, we’ll soon be introducing Perkbox Medical.
We've teamed up with medical experts to figure out a way of providing hassle-free, affordable cover so that Perkbox clients can enjoy healthier, happier (and less expensive) lives.
Perkbox Medical will provide straightforward, affordable professional cover from £3 a month. The policy acts as a partial medical cover – here’s the sweet spot – so you’re covered for the things you need generally, without any extra cost of insurance for treatments you may never even need.
The revolutionary medical product will offer full online and in-app support. Need a GP ASAP? Not to worry. Perkbox Medical has an online GP service, getting rid of that tricky troublemaker we all know so well: absenteeism. The online service is 24/7, so you can access support whenever and wherever you need it. You can also book online appointments and get prescriptions through the service too.
Perkbox Medical also works towards fast-tracking the NHS to get you your essentials as speedily as possible, including services such as counselling, physiotherapy and even X-rays.
There isn’t one. The cover gets you the services you need on a day-to-day basis, regardless of age, gender or lifestyle. The only thing you need to consider is how many employees you want to cover, but at that price, it’s a no-brainer.
Whether you choose to have private medical insurance or not is really down to your personal preference and, largely, to your disposable income.
Remember, though, if you have medical insurance you still have access to the NHS. Looking at it this way, one of the best things about private medical insurance is that you can have your cake and eat it.
The NHS is there for your taking, but if you don’t want to wait and can afford the premium, there’s nothing stopping you from going private either.
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