Most residents in the UK will be able to easily access free healthcare through the NHS, a service that provides comprehensive medical treatment when needed, to anybody regardless of their financial status.
However, the number of people who are opting to get private medical insurance cover in the UK is on the rise, with around four million UK citizens now covered. Private medical insurance can be beneficial, providing patients with quicker access to treatment and more choice when it comes to specialists and facilities. However, it also comes at a cost. Read on to find out more about the pros and cons of getting private health insurance, and if it’s worth paying for.
Pros and Cons of Private Health Cover
Patients can easily request specialist referrals
Get faster access to consultations, diagnosis, and treatment
The possibility of choosing a specific hospital, clinic, or doctor
May be able to get your own private room for treatment
Does not usually cover chronic conditions
Existing medical conditions are not usually covered as standard and will need to be added on as an extra cost
Cover can be pricey and will rise as you get older
What’s Covered by Private Health Insurance?
What your private health insurance policy will cover will depend on the type of cover you purchase. Like most insurance policies, there will be optional extras that you’ll be able to add on if you wish. As standard, the majority of private health insurance policies cover inpatient care such as tests, scans, and surgical procedures along with some aftercare costs. You can pay more to access more extensive policies that offer cover for outpatient care including access to consultants and specialists. These health insurance FAQs go into more detail on what is and isn’t included in the cover if you want to learn more.
What’s the Best Private Health Cover?
Most likely, you have heard some of the most popular UK private healthcare insurance providers such as Bupa, Vitality and AXA PPP. However, the health insurance market is a very competitive one, so it’s also worth looking into some of the lesser-known providers when you are searching for quotes. However, when it comes to comparing cover, this can be trickier compared to other types of insurance such as car or home insurance as it’s not always quite as simple as choosing the most affordable plan.
There are three different levels of cover typically available; these are basic, intermediate, or comprehensive cover. Each cover type offers a different level of health insurance at different costs. You’ll also need to consider how much excess you are prepared to pay if you have to make a claim. The higher your excess, the cheaper your premium will be.
You’ll also need to determine if you want to get a fully underwritten policy or a moratorium policy. Fully underwritten policies will require you to provide the insurer with a complete medical history upfront, while moratorium policies allow you to disclose limited information when you sign up.
Is Private Health Insurance Worth It?
Whether or not your private healthcare insurance cover will be good value for money will depend on a number of factors, including your personal circumstances, health status, and the benefits that you are paying for. One of the major advantages of getting private medical insurance is that there is a faster referral process compared to the NHS. Many people who decide to get private health insurance will do so simply to get access to treatment quicker and avoid the NHS waiting lists. Another key benefit of getting private health insurance is that it may also be able to provide you with access to treatments and medications that may not be available to you on the NHS.
Where to Buy Private Health Insurance
Since there are so many different cover types available, comparing the best private health insurance quotes isn’t always easy. Along with the basic levels of cover that are available, there will also be optional extras for you to keep in mind such as mental health or dental cover. Prices can also vary depending on the hospitals where you’d prefer to be treated, which will usually need to be in your local area.
Alternatives to Getting Private Health Insurance
While some people find that getting private health cover is worth paying for due to the quicker access to treatment and ability to access different treatment and medication options compared to what’s available on the NHS, it’s still worth considering if there are any alternative options that might be more suitable for you. Instead of getting private medical cover, you could:
If you don’t get sick or need hospital treatment very often, you could consider ‘self insuring’, which basically means saving the money that you would have paid for private health cover instead. Rather than paying the insurance company, you can put the money into a savings account and let it build up over time so you can use the money to pay for private healthcare treatment if you need it.
If you already have savings or access to enough money to cover the cost, you could decide to pay for the treatment upfront rather than using a private health insurance policy. However, it is worth remembering that the cost of private healthcare can easily be tens of thousands of pounds. Another option to consider is to pay for the basic treatments yourself, but get a lower level of private healthcare cover that can be put towards paying for more expensive medical care.
Use the NHS
Despite the fact that people in the UK are divided with their opinions on the NHS, there’s no denying that this country is one of the few places in the world where citizens have access to free medical treatment at the point of need. The NHS has some of the best professionals in the world and is very good at dealing with serious health conditions. If you have a serious condition such as heart disease or cancer, you will automatically be given priority treatment on the NHS. Most of the doctors who work in the NHS will also provide private healthcare cover, so the quality of care that you’ll receive will be the same. If you’re happy to wait a little longer to get treatment, you might not find private health cover worth getting.
Although in the UK, you can get free healthcare at the point of need from the NHS, there are many reasons to consider getting private medical insurance cover. With private medical insurance, you can continue using the NHS when needed, but call upon your insurer to pay if you need treatment and do not want to wait for it. Private health insurance can be beneficial for some people, especially those who want to try treatments or medications that the NHS does not provide. If you expect to go private for your healthcare in the future, it’s worth investing in this cover since the cost of private healthcare can easily run into thousands of pounds for just one treatment.
While we’re lucky enough not to need it in the UK, private health insurance is certainly worth considering.