You woke up this morning, feeling fit, healthy and full of the joys of Spring, but can you guarantee you will feel like that every morning? What about in ten, twenty, thirty years time, will you still have that spring in your step?? Now, I don’t mean to sound all doom and gloom, but no one can guarantee good health for their entire life.? At some point, it is almost inevitable that each and every one of us will pay a visit to a hospital, need treatment or require some other form of healthcare. So bearing this in mind, are you prepared for when this happens?
Most of us are content with the free service that the NHS provides for us in this country, but there are certain benefits to taking out a separate health insurance policy:
1. Less waiting around.
Although waiting times have generally improved on the NHS and it is an issue that they continue to try and address, it could still be a maximum of 18 weeks between referral and treatment. If you have health insurance this waiting time is dramatically reduced and you can also use your policy to ‘fast track’ you through the NHS system if you have been told that the wait time is anything over 6 weeks.
2. Private room.
Paying for private health insurance does exactly what it says on the tin, it buys you some privacy.? Rather than having to stay on an open ward, possibly even a mixed sex ward, your policy will grant you access to a private room during your stay in hospital. This may also get you an en suite bathroom, better food menu choices and use of a TV, with more channel options. We’re not talking The Ritz, but it won’t be far off!
3. Specialist treatment.
Not only will you be able to choose both your surgeon and hospital, but you can also ask your GP to refer you to a private specialist to get a second opinion or for specialist treatment. However, make sure you check your individual policy plan as some policies may limit you to a set list of hospitals. Certain drugs and treatment will not be available on the NHS, either because they are deemed too expensive or they have not been approved by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence in England and Wales (NICE) or the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC). You will also get quicker access to physiotherapy than if you were to go through the NHS.
4. Continuity of care.
Unlike on the NHS, where they have changing shift patterns and limited staff numbers per patient, with health insurance you will have the benefit of being seen by the same consultant throughout your treatment. This gives you the peace of mind that they are fully aware of your individual case history and future needs.
In relation to continuity of care, comes the confidence that you will have more time to discuss your symptoms, you will not be sat around waiting all day for a consultant to see you and you can be safe in the knowledge that you will not have to act as a guineapig for a group of medical students, which can quite often happen in an NHS hospital.
6. Unrestricted visiting hours.
An important factor for some people is to be able to have their family and loved ones come to visit them during their stay in hospital. NHS hospitals have strict rules about when visitors are and are not allowed to visit.? Private hospitals however, welcome visitors at all hours of the day.
Of course, with every benefit comes a disadvantage and taking out a health insurance policy is not right for everyone. Here are some of the disadvantages associated with private healthcare:
As with all insurance policies, premiums are continuing to rise year on year. The average cost of a typical family premium, based of 2 adults and 2 children under the age of 10, is from between ?700 to ?1,650 a year. This will also rise the older you get as your health is more likely to deteriorate and you are more likely to need hospital treatment. According to the global consulting leader, Mercer, the cost of medical treatment is rising by 10% each year.? As this number rises so do premiums and you need to consider whether you can realistically afford to keep up the payments.
2. There is no guarantee of better care.
Private doesn’t automatically mean better. With many of our NHS hospitals offering expert and world leading care in such serious illnesses as cancer and heart disease you may not be any better off from having spent money on health insurance. NHS hospitals can be as good and, in some cases, better than private hospitals.
3. Not all conditions are covered.
You can’t obviously predict what illness you may or may not be affected by and unfortunately health insurance policies are a bit of gamble in that they will not cover you for each and every illness. Certain chronic illnesses such as diabetes, some cancers or other diseases which are deemed incurable will not be covered by most health insurance policies. Check all of the small print as, dependent on the policy and your previous medical history, many will only cover you for short term illness, injury or treatment. There may also be restrictions on the type of treatment an appointments that are covered within your policy, so again check with your insurer.
Some insurance policies will have their own list of approved hospitals and consultants, which may not be local to where you live. This would obviously impact on how convenient it would be for visitors to come and see you and would also result in you having to pay travel costs, which could soon mount up.
Before you take out any insurance policy please make sure that you have thought through all of your options, spoken about it with other family members and if needed seek the advice of an independent financial adviser.