What are the pros and cons of having private medical insurance in the UK? Is Private medical insurance worth the cost? More Than Money finds out.
We’ve all relied on the NHS at some point in our lives, and as the institution celebrates its 70th anniversary, no one’s denying it does a grand job; but for those who want more control over where and when they are treated, private Health Insurance is seen as a worthwhile expense. With that in mind, we have compiled a comprehensive guide to the Pros and Cons of Private Medical Insurance to help you with your decision.
With recent news reports about overworked and poorly paid doctors and nurses, the longevity of the NHS has come into question; couple that with the fact that waiting lists for some treatments are longer than ever, and you’d be forgiven for asking whether taking out Private Healthcare might be the answer.
So, what exactly are the Pros?
Faster Diagnosis And Treatment
Top of the list of things people often complain about when it comes to the NHS is the amount of time you sometimes have to wait for treatment after referral or diagnosis. This waiting time has since been improved to a wait of no longer than 18 weeks, but going private can cut that wait time drastically; a faster appointment means faster treatment.
Access To The Latest Medications
When it comes to innovative healthcare, private hospitals can be streets ahead when it comes to providing access to the latest medications and procedures. Receiving more effective treatment means a shorter recovery time, as well as a more comfortable experience. And speaking of comfort….
Private Healthcare means private facilities, and often this is one of the top reasons given for taking out private health insurance. In a private hospital you can pay to have your own room and even have a partner stay with you for added support. Private care tends to be available in grades, so although you might be sharing a room with one or two people, it’s normally never more than 4 to a room. Being in a more relaxed and personal environment has been shown to reduce stress levels and aid recovery.
24 Hour Support
We all know how incredibly hard NHS staff work to maintain the highest standards in care, but private facilities can be more flexible with the support they can provide to patients, offering round-the-clock customer support teams and even aftercare plans. For example, there are some Private Healthcare providers who issue patients with gym passes after surgery to help with recovery.
With the NHS it’s not unusual to see a different doctor or nurse at each consultation, and while this doesn’t mean they’re not all in the loop when it comes to your specific situation, some patients would prefer to see the same doctor throughout. With Private Healthcare you can choose your own consultant and will see them at every appointment.
All sounds promising, doesn’t it? – private rooms, less of a wait, and even the possibility of some added extras. But on the flipside, is Private Healthcare all it’s cracked up to be?
So that’s the “pros” section of “The Pros
Not Always Quicker
The shorter waiting times and speedier treatment I spoke of earlier doesn’t apply to all types of medical eventualities. Private Healthcare doesn’t offer any improvement over the NHS when it comes to diagnosis and treatments of cancer, strokes or heart disease. Whether you go private or through the NHS priority treatment will always be given in these cases.
Not Always Better
There are NHS hospitals that are just as good, if not better, than some private hospitals, so it’s important to remember that going private offers more choice in where you are treated rather than a better environment to be treated in.
It Won’t Cover Everything
Private Healthcare might give you access to certain scans or drugs not available on the NHS, but that doesn’t mean it covers every single illness. It won’t cover chronic or incurable illnesses (including some cancers), for example. Also excluded from the majority of policies are injuries from dangerous sports, transplants, cosmetic surgery and some maternity costs. It’s also worth knowing that unless your policy is an employee benefit any existing medical conditions aren’t covered – except as an expensive add-on! Also, you should note that the treatment or specialist you need might not be covered under your policy.
Private Medical Insurance Isn’t Cheap
For those who decide that the potential of shorter waiting times and a private room make going private a more attractive option than being treated on the NHS, the one disadvantage that might make you think twice is the cost. As with all insurance plans you get what you pay for, and the most comprehensive cover doesn’t come cheap. An average family premium (2 adults in their forties and 2 kids under 10) could be as much as £140 per month, and that will rise every year. As we get older we are much more likely to need hospital treatment, and so a couple in their 60s could be paying as much as £300 a month in premiums for their private healthcare.
Having said that, there are affordable plans out there, it’s just a case of doing your research or talking to a financial advisor before making any decisions (something I would ALWAYS recommend). A financial advisor has access to insurance products from a panel of lenders – including those not on comparison websites – and will be able to find you a policy to suit your needs.
Why bother with Private Healthcare? After all, the NHS has been doing us proud for 70 years! But, when it comes to the luxury of having a choice of consultants or treatments, and even having a private room, many feel that Private Healthcare Insurance is well worth having.
My article takes a look at the Pros and Cons of Private Medical Insurance and of taking out such a policy, and what it could cost you if you do.