UK (Parliament Politic Magazine) – Healthcare in the UK is primarily provided by the NHS at no cost to most residents. However, there has been a significant increase in the number of individuals opting for private health insurance to address their medical needs. According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), in 2021, there was a 44% surge in the utilization of healthcare services offered by insurers compared to the pre-pandemic year of 2019.
This trend can be partly attributed to the NHS experiencing a record high in waiting lists. Recent reports have revealed that the number of individuals waiting for more than 18 months for NHS treatment in England is on the rise, despite previous government commitments to reduce such prolonged wait times. If you are considering obtaining health coverage, it’s essential to be diligent in selecting the right policy that suits your needs at a reasonable cost.
Know Why You Want It
The specific purpose for which you need coverage will determine the type of insurance you should seek.
“Some people are looking for fast access to health services, whether that’s a GP appointment or consultant care, others want access to the latest innovations and treatments, and some want support to live a healthier life and reduce their likelihood of becoming ill. Many are looking for all three,” says Doctor Keith Klintworth, the managing director of Vitality Health.
Sarah Coles, who serves as the head of personal finance at the investment platform Hargreaves Lansdown, explains that individuals frequently turn to health insurance to circumvent NHS waiting times or to access medical treatment and medications that are not provided by the government.
Health insurance plans often include coverage for medications or treatments that are unavailable through the NHS due to their novelty and lack of approval, or because they are cost-prohibitive. A spokesperson of Association of British Insurers believes: “Having speedier access to services and treatment often prevents health conditions from worsening and is a key element of health insurance.”
A rapidly growing trend is the utilization of virtual general practitioners (GPs). According to the ABI, the use of online GP appointments through health insurance witnessed a remarkable 440% increase from 2019 to 2021.
Check What Your Employer Offers
Health insurance provided as an employee benefit often represents a more cost-effective choice, not just for you but also for eligible family members, provided the plan permits their inclusion. Due to the large-scale operation of these schemes, risk management approaches are handled differently. As per Gemma Milford, who serves as the head of group health at IHC Employee Benefits. “There is typically less medical underwriting, meaning you are unlikely to have to declare pre-existing conditions.”
Numerous insurers provide a variety of discounts in collaboration with commercial partners, and these discounts can change regularly. If these partnerships align with services or products you typically utilize, they can help partially offset your premium expenses.
As an example, Bupa offers a 25% discount on annual membership with English Heritage, which typically costs £69 per year for a family with one adult, or £120 for a family with two adults. They also offer discounts on gym memberships.
Don’t Just Look at The Cost
If you are purchasing health insurance independently, you’ll find a wide array of options available, with over 500 private health insurers in the UK. To give you a general idea of costs, Vitality offers premiums starting at £38 per month, while Aviva states that the average annual premium falls within the range of £1,000 to £1,100, equivalent to approximately £83 to £92 per month.
However, it’s important not to solely base your decision on cost. If the policy doesn’t align with your specific needs, paying for it may not be practical. Therefore, it is crucial to compare policy features along with premiums to make an informed choice. According to ABI:
“As with all insurance, the premium is priced to reflect the risk. While it will be down to individual insurers to determine prices, a number of factors may be used to calculate a premium, such as age, pre-existing health conditions and someone’s current health.”
For instance, you often have the option to include or exclude coverage for cancer. Additionally, you can select a policy where the initial diagnosis must be made through the NHS, but subsequent treatment can be administered privately. Certain insurers may also provide a more limited list of approved treatment centers, which can result in reduced costs.