Health insurance was once seen as the domain of only the affluent, with private medical insurance policies (also known as PMI) typically expensive and not affordable for Joe Public. If you became ill, you either waited to be seen under the NHS system or paid for private treatment out of your own pocket.
With the general population living longer due to better diet, living conditions, and advanced medical treatments etc., the downside is that the State healthcare system is more under pressure than ever before.
In fact, a newspaper article (The Daily Mail, August 2014) reported that NHS waiting times were at their highest levels for six years, with 32,500 people waiting longer than the NHS target of 18 weeks.
If you are on an NHS waiting list, depending on your illness or complaint, you could find that it:
- Is causing you undue stress, as you are worried about the diagnosis and whether there is something very seriously wrong;
- Means you are unable to enjoy day to day life as you are too uncomfortable or in pain;
- Causes you worry about your job security, if you are off sick and unable to work;
- And so on.
This is where private health insurance can prove invaluable. PMI policies can be affordable for most people, as there are a number of different policy types, plus levels of cover, available.
Someone on a very tight budget may opt for a basic policy, perhaps with a high policy excess, a selected list of hospitals they can use (which may not always be local) and a ‘waiting period’ before they are eligible to claim. The ‘waiting period’ refers to health insurance policies, which allow a period of time for you to be treated on the NHS before you can use your policy – typically 6 weeks. If you cannot be treated within that time, then typically the PMI kicks in.
People who want a more comprehensive level of cover (so access to private hospitals in their local area, quick appointment times, and perhaps even cover for the spouse and children included too) may opt for a higher cost policy.
The key here is that there are private health insurance policies available to meet most budgets and requirements.
Health Cash Plans
Another option, which is not a private medical insurance policy per se, but does allow you to access certain private treatments, is a health cash plan.
A health cash plan is designed to cover the day-to-day costs of maintaining your health, such as dental treatment and check ups, eye tests and spectacles, complementary treatments, physiotherapy, specialist consultations, chiropractor treatments etc.
Basically, you can see these practitioners privately and your cash plan policy will reimburse you a percentage or all of the cost (up to set limits every year).
Health cash plans are cheaper than PMI policies because the amounts that are paid out are generally not as high as those paid out on a private health insurance policy.
In order to get all round peace of mind and cover for their health, some people may opt to have both a health cash plan as well as a PMI policy.
However you decide to protect yourself by healthy eating and lifestyle, you may also want to invest in a private health insurance policy to ensure you get any treatment swiftly as and when you need it.