Is private medical Insurance the way to go? – Birmingham Post article 14.04.2022

You are in pain, you are on a massive NHS waiting list made worse by Covid, and you feel your life is on hold.

Do you wish you had private medical insurance in place?

Too late. It needs addressing ahead of potential ailments cropping up as pre-existing conditions tend to be excluded.

You could of course simply pay direct using your savings. However, hip or knee replacement surgery is likely to exceed £10,000. MRI scans cost from £500. Therefore, you will need deep pockets.

Insurance is expensive too, you might end up in the care of exactly the same clinician as under the state system, but there is one big advantage.

You will circumvent those dreaded waiting lists and be seen fast.

For, while the NHS is usually brilliant in an emergency, it can seem inordinately ponderous if your condition is non-life-threatening.

A typical family premium (two adults in their 40s and two children under 10) can vary from £700 to £1,800 a year.

That would usually cover for surgery, heart and cancer issues, therapies (such as physiotherapy), seeing a consultant, hospital accommodation and nursing care, and diagnostic tests.

Charges will rise according to claims history, increases in medical costs nationally, and age.

While for younger customers, a comprehensive health insurance policy might cost a few hundred pounds a year, for those over retirement age, it is more likely to be well into the thousands.

However, a policy can be tailored to suit your needs and affordability in the same way your household insurance and car insurance works. Equally, adding an excess will help.

Millions of people in the UK do have health insurance.

How then do you best follow suit?

You could go direct to one of the big players in the sector, Aviva, AXA PPP, BUPA, Saga and Vitality Health.

Alternatively, you can buy it via an insurer, broker, financial adviser, bank, building society or even at your local supermarket.

You can shop around using comparison websites, or you could take a different route – private health insurance provided by your employer, healthcare cash plans and critical illness cover.

Be aware that healthcare insurance will not usually cover the likes of organ transplants, pregnancy and childbirth, cosmetic surgery, injuries relating to dangerous sports, and chronic illnesses such as HIV/AIDs, diabetes, epilepsy, hypertension (high blood pressure) and related conditions.

Ultimately, you will need to weigh up the pros and cons of the offer.

Among the pros cited by Money Helper are specialist referrals and the ability to get a second opinion; reduced waiting time; you can (in theory) choose a surgeon and hospital to suit your time and place, which isn’t possible on the NHS; you’re more likely to get a private room; and quicker access to physiotherapy.

It lists the cons as – if  you have a serious illness such as cancer, heart disease or stroke, you’ll get priority NHS treatment anyway; NHS hospitals can be as good as, or better than, private hospitals; and by the time you’re older and more likely to need hospital treatment, you might not be able to afford the premiums.

Then there are the imponderables … will the treatment we assume is there be available on the NHS in future years? Is the NHS going to survive?

Consumer watchdog Which has this thought.

It states: “Private health insurance is a complicated product so it’s best to speak to a broker, especially if you have had medical problems or need specialist cover for certain illnesses.”

Will private medical insurance give peace of mind for you and your loved ones?

It is certainly something to ponder.