We have all seen the headlines, and we are all aware just how under pressure the NHS is following the original COVID-19, and the subsequent Omicron, strain. While Omicron numbers of hospital admissions have, thankfully, been lower than anticipated, it has still added additional pressure to a system not fully recovered, teamed with staff absences due to self-isolation (which trebled between 1st to 31st December 2021), and NHS staff taking much-needed annual leave over the Christmas break.
NHS England reported that 6 million (equating to one in nine) people in England are still stuck on an NHS waiting list awaiting treatment. Over 300,000 of these patients have been waiting over a year for operations, from joint replacements to eye surgery.
Patients are waiting, on average, around one hour for an ambulance to respond to a 999-call involving serious illnesses from stroke to heart attack, but we have all seen the headlines where this wait has been far longer for many individuals.
Frighteningly, 25% of cancer patients had to wait longer than the two-week target to see a specialist. Part of this delay may also be due to the number of patients coming forward with cancer concerns following the periods of lockdown last year, as GP referrals for cancer are higher than the pre-pandemic average. Of the patients who are being referred to, and seen by a specialist, many are waiting up to two months to receive treatment which could impact their chances of survival.
While patients are exasperated, staff are exhausted, so what is the solution? You may be wondering whether private medical insurance is worth considering? Perhaps it isn’t something you have considered before the pandemic?
Is private health insurance expensive?
The medical insurance premiums of yesteryear were one-size-fits-all and often came at a higher, standardised, premium, but in 2022 there many ways to reduce your medical insurance premiums.
Our specialist health insurance team summarise some of the ways you can reduce your premium:
The voluntary excess
By taking a voluntary excess, like you would with your car insurance, you agree to pay the first part of any claim and, as a result, can get a discount on your cover. Excess ranges from as little as £100 to as much as £5,000 and depending on what excess you opt for can expect to achieve discounts from around 10% off your premium.
Manage your hospital lists
You might think that the cost of a hip replacement is the same throughout the country, but it isn’t. Many are surprised to learn than hospitals (and individual consultants and surgeons) around the country charge different amounts. If you want full choice, for example you would prefer to have access to a premium London hospital, the premiums are generally higher. However, if you are happy to stay local and take the ‘insurers preferred list’ option, then this helps the insurer control costs and lower your premium by around 20%
Comprehensive private healthcare?
A fully comprehensive private medical plan covers all costs for diagnosis and then all the costs of your treatment. On average, a consultation costs around £200 – £300 with a specialist, an x-ray around £100, while in-depth scans like an MRI could be around £800 – £1,500. What was once the go-to for private health insurance, has been reworked to make it far more affordable.
Choose it all, or pick and mix the elements you are more likely to need. If you can afford to pay diagnosis costs, or are happy to use the NHS for diagnosing your issue initially, prior to referring you to a private specialist, then you could take a ‘treatment only’ private healthcare plan which could save you as much as 40%.
There are also options to have a limited sum of cover, for example, £1,000 limit towards your diagnosis, and you contribute the rest. This option could attract a 15 – 20% saving.
Consider cancer cover
Although waiting lists are longer at the moment, outside of the pandemic, the NHS does perform well with cancer treatment. Although it is ideal to include it within your private healthcare policy, you could choose a plan that excludes cancer treatment, which significantly lowers your premium, and utilise NHS services just for this. You will still have the peace of mind that anything else will be dealt with privately.
The ‘6 week wait’ option
Did you know that you could see private healthcare premiums reduce by around 15% on average in exchange for agreeing to being treated by the NHS if the NHS can treat you within 6 weeks?
If they can’t (dependent on local waiting times, they often can’t) you go private.
With the current NHS stats, the ‘6 week wait’ option could be a viable option right now.
Switch – with your no claims and medical history
Even if you already have a form of private healthcare, you may still benefit from switching from your current insurer to a new one.
There are two ways to do this. You could simply start a new plan, but be warned if you start anew, only new future conditions will be covered, all existing conditions will be excluded. Or you transfer or switch, carrying on your no claims and medical history meaning that only conditions that existed before your original policy would be excluded. For this there are strict eligibility criteria, and you should always get advice from a broker who can help you in this endeavour.
What should I know about private health insurance?
Medical insurance, generally, goes up in price every year for several reasons. As we get older the risk of health problems increases and so must our insurance costs, while ‘medical inflation’ (i.e., the cost of drugs, doctors, hospitals, treatment) usually outstrips normal inflation. Sometimes the Government increases Insurance Premium Tax which can see an incremental increase, and some insurers discount new clients. We are telling you this so that you are aware of the ability to use a broker and shop around to find the best options.
Using a broker means that they have direct access to a panel of reputable UK providers and are able to work directly with them, to tweak your policy to ensure you aren’t paying for anything you don’t need.
Even at renewal time, it’s a good idea to give your broker a quick call, and they will go about reviewing the market with your agreed criteria or liaising directly with your existing provider to negotiate a better premium.
How does private healthcare insurance work?
Some of the benefits to having private healthcare insurance include, depending on your cover:
- Enjoy shorter waiting times by avoiding the NHS waiting list
- Greater range of treatments available
- Private ensuite rooms, with a few additional home comforts
- You can often choose your consultant
- Receive higher quality healthcare
- Higher ratios of health care staff
- Choice of top private hospitals
- High quality, nutritious food
Whether you are self-employed and wondering if you can afford private health insurance, or even if you have made a claim, there are many private health insurance options to review these days.
The best way to know what is currently available is to use a broker, like A-Plan, to help find the right plan for your circumstances. We’re always here to help and can answer any questions you may have, just get in touch.