Is it time to consider private health insurance?

In the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, we keep hearing about how overstretched the NHS is. It was recently reported that the number of people waiting for non-urgent operations is now over 6.1 million. The number of people who have been waiting for over 2 years is also increasing.

With that in mind, is it time for you to consider some kind of private health insurance?

In this article we look at the advantages and disadvantages of private health insurance, and the different types of insurance available.

The advantages of private health insurance

There are several advantages to having private health insurance. These include:

  • Faster access to diagnosis and treatment;
  • A choice of when to have treatment;
  • A choice of consultant or specialist;
  • A choice of where to have treatment;
  • More privacy during recovery, for example a private room;
  • The possibility of having drugs and treatment not available on the NHS;
  • A range of after-care options.

 

This all sounds ideal, but what about the disadvantages?

The disadvantages of private health insurance

Some of the potential disadvantages of private health insurance are:

  • Private medical insurance is expensive, and the price increases as you get older;
  • For emergency care and serious illnesses, the speed and quality of NHS hospital care can be better than private care;
  • Chronic illnesses – such as diabetes and epilepsy – are not usually covered by private health insurance;
  • Pre-existing medical conditions are not usually covered by private health insurance;
  • Some private health insurance policies can limit your choice of consultants and hospitals to their approved list.


There is also the ethical question to consider, about whether you feel comfortable about using private health care. Some people would see it as queue jumping, and depriving the NHS of the time of consultants and surgeons who are also doing private work. However, the BMA (British Medical Association) requirements are for doctors employed by the NHS to always prioritise their NHS work, and do any additional private work in their own time. So in theory there should be no conflict of interest between the two sectors. 

Different types of private health insurance

We have already seen that private health insurance can be expensive. However, there are various different types of insurance, and the cost can vary greatly between them. 

It’s impossible to cover every single type of private health insurance in just one article, as each insurer will have their own range of offerings. But as a rough guide we have broken it down into four different types:

  • Full private health insurance;
  • Partial private health insurance;
  • Pay as you go private health care;
  • Health cash plans.

Full private health insurance

This is the most expensive type of health insurance and covers most health issues. You will usually have access to a large network of private consultants and hospitals for diagnosis and treatment. You will be able to be seen more quickly and usually have a private hospital room.

Full private health insurance usually covers:

  • All hospital and doctor’s fees;
  • Outpatient consultations and treatment;
  • Cancer treatment;
  • Other treatment options such as mental health care and physiotherapy depending on your level of cover;
  • After-care if needed.

Some policies also pay you a cash amount if you have in-patient treatment on the NHS.

Full private health insurance may not cover:

  • Pre-existing conditions;
  • Chronic conditions;
  • A&E visits;
  • Pregnancy and childbirth;
  • Organ transplants;
  • Drug abuse;
  • Non-essential and cosmetic procedures.

Partial private health insurance

There are a wide variety of partial private health products on offer from different insurers. Some examples of this are:

  • Six-week wait option

Many private health insurance policies have the option to only kick in if you have to wait longer than 6 weeks to be seen by the NHS. This can greatly reduce the cost of premiums.

  • Diagnostics-only cover

This ensures that you see a specialist quickly to get symptoms diagnosed. But any necessary treatment would then be done by the NHS.

  • Specific condition cover

If you have a specific condition that you want to be covered, you can take out private health insurance just for that condition, with everything else being covered by the NHS.

Pay as you go private health care

If you want the reassurance of private health care without the ongoing price tag, another option is to save money on a regular basis and use it if needed to pay for individual treatments. An estimated 20% of private patients do this. Get advice from your GP as to what your treatment is likely to cost, and how to go about getting it done privately and paying the health provider directly.

If it is too expensive to pay for the complete treatment, you could consider paying for a private consultation and then having any subsequent treatment on the NHS.

If you need any financial assistance to get things sorted, remember that Minty offers 24 month loans which may be able to help.

Health cash plans

Cash plans are not strictly speaking private health insurance. Whereas private health insurance covers atypical consultations, diagnosis and surgery, a cash plan helps you budget for routine healthcare. 

With a cash plan, you pay monthly instalments and can then claim cash back to cover some or all of the cost of visiting a dentist, optician, physiotherapist or various other healthcare professionals. 

Some health cash plans will also pay you money for every night you need to stay in hospital.

Where to get private health insurance

It is clear that there are many different kinds of private health insurance policies to choose from. But where do you find the one that is right for you?

The first thing to do is to check whether you may have some cover from your employer. Many companies offer this as a benefit. If so, your family may also be covered, or you may be able to pay an additional premium to get them covered.

If you are looking for a completely new policy, a comparison website such as Money Supermarket, Compare the Market, or Go Compare is a good place to start.

Another option is to look for a broker on the AMII (Association of Medical Insurers and Intermediaries) website. This will provide you with expert advice to help make the best decision for your specific needs. You normally do not need to pay an insurance broker, as they will receive commission from the insurer you ultimately choose.

Also take a look at health insurance policies offered by your bank or building society, or other trusted organisations such as large supermarkets.

When looking at a policy, be careful to check exactly what you will and will not be covered for, and how much money the policy will  pay. Many health insurers will allow you to tailor your policy to your specific needs so that you only pay for what you actually need. This can greatly reduce your annual premium.

Also be aware of two other ways of reducing the costs of your premium payments:

  • Excess
    Most types of insurance offer the option of an excess, and private health insurance is no different. An excess is an amount of money that you agree to pay yourself in the event of a claim.

    The disadvantage is that you may have to quickly find some money when you are already in a vulnerable condition. However, the advantage is that agreeing to an excess will reduce the cost of your premiums.

  • Co-payments
    Co-payments are another version of excess where you agree to pay a certain percentage of the cost of the claim rather than a fixed amount of money. You are usually able to cap the co-payment at a pre-agreed amount.

    So, for example, you might agree to a co-payment of 10% of the cost up to a maximum of £1,000. This would enable you to reduce your premiums whilst at the same time knowing what you would have to pay your health insurer in the worst case scenario.

 

We hope that the above information helps you to decide whether private health insurance is the right thing for you and your family and, if so, where to go about looking for the best policy for you.

Check back here soon for more lifestyle and financial tips from Minty Loans.