Maintaining a good level of health should be a lifetime commitment for everyone. In the UK we're fortunate to have the NHS to turn to, but recent austerity has strained medical services to the point of breaking, and the health of the nation is currently suffering. Private medical insurance used to be thought of as something of a luxury- only enjoyed by the wealthy, and a few who were lucky enough to be provided for by their employer. Fortunately this is no longer the case, and private medical cover is now accessible for most people.
What are the benefits?
The NHS is a vital service which provides health care at a cheaper rate per-head than anywhere else in the world. Unfortunately the recent cuts to services have placed an even greater strain on the level of care, and as a result waiting times for services are longer than ever. If you have just a throat infection, no doubt you shouldn't find it too difficult to get an appointment for some antibiotics- even though GP's are currently under criticism for appointment waiting times. But the situation is currently much worse at NHS hospitals, with some people waiting months or even years for simple operations, and vital treatment. As it stands, with the continued austerity and ageing population, we can only expect this to get worse.
Taking out private health care, can eradicate all concerns of this nature. The main benefit being the availability of care, meaning you can pretty much get immediate attention regardless of your ailment. Aside from that there are 'ground-breaking' drugs and other treatments, which are currently unavailable on the NHS due their costs. You don't need to worry about having to travel too far to receive treatment neither, as there are currently over 400 private hospitals across the nation, and even more private GP surgeries, as well as NHS GP's who operate private clinics within the same building. You can also choose your own specialists too, helping to give you peace of mind if you need to have a particularly risky operation.
There's also a lot of flexibility as well with private health plans too. In practice this means you can support the NHS as well as reduce your own costs, by simply covering yourself for medicines and treatments which you don't want- or aren't available, on the NHS.
How much does it cost?
Well naturally it varies depending on your age and health, as well as the level of cover you want to receive. You see it advertised for less than £10 per month, but those deals might not be good for you. There are three broad types of policy to cater for each end of the market. It goes without saying that the more you can afford to pay, the more you're covered for:
- Basic Policies Includes cover for inpatient treatment (staying overnight in private hospital). Some very basic policies won't cover you for outpatient care. This means you'll need to rely on the NHS for minor ailments which don't require continued hospital monitoring.
- Mid-level Policies These will include inpatient treatments as mentioned above, as well as selected outpatient treatments, include those which require return visits to the GP or hospital for follow up care.
- Full Policies These policies will encompass a full range of available treatment (obviously minor any exclusions you decide to specify). This will include treatments covered under mid-level policies, as well access to other services such as psychiatric treatment, counselling, home nursing, physiotherapy and orthodontists.
If you have an existing condition, you probably won't be able to get it cover for it, but many providers offer what is known as the 'moratorium policy'. This will basically exclude cover for any conditions you've suffered within the last 5 years – but if you manage two continuous years without needing treatment or suffering more symptoms, you can then claim for your costs. If your existing condition is chronic, i.e. it's ongoing - or if you develop it during the term of a policy, it's unlikely that you'll be able to claim for long term treatment.Image: © Megaflopp | Dreamstime.com