Is private health insurance worth it?

Private health insurance can offer reduced waiting times, more flexibility with your personal medical care, access to otherwise sometimes unavailable treatments, and many other benefits. Is private health insurance worth it? Check out this blog and let us know.
June 4, 2019
minutes read time

Why do I need health insurance?

Health insurance is personal to everyone; the reasons someone may purchase a private health insurance policy may differ entirely to another person. The best thing anyone can do to understand whether they need health insurance is to read into the topic, gain an understanding of what it can offer them personally, take note of some questions and speak to a health insurance expert. Here’s some recommended reading to get you started:

  1. What is health insurance? - covering all of the basics of health insurance
  2. What is private healthcare? - explains how private healthcare works, and the relationship with private insurance policies
  3. How does private health insurance work? - a detailed blog looking at the moving parts of health insurance and policies

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Health insurance benefits

Before purchasing any policy, make sure that you’re aware of all of the potential benefits that you’ll have access to. It’s unlikely that you’ll see the value in all of those listed - but this is a great thing, it means that when it comes to building your policy, you’ll have an informed idea of exactly the features you want to be included. Not concerned with having access to a virtual GP? No problem. Want a specific hospital included? It can be factored in for you.

Quicker medical diagnosis

The NHS is committed to providing ‘non-urgent consultant-led’ treatments within 18 weeks of a GP referral, and most hospitals do an amazing job of keeping within this time period. However, the idea waiting 18 weeks doesn’t suit everyone.

Private healthcare patients, on average, often have a reduced time period between initial consultation and diagnosis. The quicker a patient is diagnosed, the quicker treatment can then be booked in at a treatment facility.

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Additional provider benefits & member benefits

Many health insurance providers offer their customers benefits for purchasing a health insurance policy with them, and for taking certain positive health-related actions. Members benefits are usually health related - here are some examples of what your provider might offer:

  1. Discounted gym memberships
  2. Regular health and fitness magazines
  3. Newsletters
  4. Discounted health and fitness products
  5. Lifestyle tips and trends
  6. Healthy recipe ideas
  7. Support to give up smoking
  8. Regular competitions to win prizes such as event tickets
  9. No claims discount, making future policies cheaper where no claims are made

Every provider offers their own unique member benefits schemes. If there’s something you’re particularly interested in, we’d be happy to talk you through what each provider can offer you.

Access to additional treatments and medicines

Due to the NHS being publicly funded, they can’t offer every treatment on the market, especially if it’s deemed too expensive. You can learn about NHS funding and how this affects their operations here. Private hospitals, on the other hand, have more flexibility over the medication and treatment they can provide. Having access to a broader range of treatments gives you more choice and control over your care. It gives you the opportunity to research the options available, and make a decision personal to you.

Hospital choice

Most health insurance providers have different scales of hospital lists that you can choose from.  Usually, an insurer will include a certain amount of hospitals within your policy as standard. You may have the option to add additional access for an increased premium, or opt for a more restricted hospital directory at a reduced premium. For example, you may find yourself paying slightly more for London hospital access with some providers, or slightly less if you were happy restricting coverage to just NHS private patient units.

This is great for health insurance customers as it gives you much more of a say of where you’re treated, and who you’re treated by. For example, if a hospital is known for providing the leading treatment for a particular condition, you may choose to include them within the policy as you’ll have the choice to access some of the highest level of care available.

Where you live may also play a factor on the most suitable hospital directory for you, always ask one of our friendly team to inform you of what medical facilities you have available in your area.

Choice of leading UK specialists

Much like some athletes are considered the best in the world for their sport, the same goes for specialists in medical fields. Receiving treatment through the NHS may mean you have to wait a long time to see a specialist, and limits the choice of consultants available to you.

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High-quality facilities

Private hospitals usually have high-quality facilities and offer private rooms to their patients. If comfort while being medically ill or during your stay at a hospital is important to you, then knowing that you’ll have access to modern facilities during your time in a private hospital may be a benefit enough to attract you to private health insurance. Please be aware that in some cases, such as A&E admittance, you may not be guaranteed a private hospital stay.

No claims discount

Some personal health insurance providers reward their policyholders who don’t make a medical claim during a policy year. Not every provider offers this, and the discount you receive is specific to the provider. Because a no claims discount only applies to customers who take out a policy with the same provider year on year, it’s crucial that your first health insurance policy is the right one, and you conduct an extensive comparison before making a purchase.

Encouraging you to stay healthier

A personal benefit to you is that once you’ve purchased a health insurance policy, you may be more health conscious, leading to more regular GP visits. This may be supplemented by your health insurance provider too; some insurers will reward you for taking healthy actions, such as visiting one of their partner gyms, completing online health questionnaires, tracking your physical activity etc. These rewards will then lead to additional benefits, thus incentivising healthy activity.

Relaxed visiting hours

Most private hospital facilities will offer more flexible, and longer visiting hours in comparison to the NHS. Having more flexibility over factors such as this can go a long way should you require medical treatment.

Great in conjunction with NHS services

The NHS is excellent, particularly for serious medical conditions such as cancer. As such, some health insurance providers will not offer cancer-related treatments that the NHS prioritise for their patients - quite frankly, there would be no benefit to their customers.

However, there are cancer-related treatments, scans and medicines that the NHS can’t offer, or you wouldn’t be able to access in comparison to private health insurance. With this in mind, by having a private health insurance policy, and using the NHS services for serious medical conditions, you’re able to cover yourself for an extensive range of conditions and modern treatment options.

Health insurance disadvantages

When it comes to health insurance disadvantages, we’re not talking about anything that you’re going to be worse off for by purchasing a policy. There are more aspects of health insurance, such as limitations or treatment exclusions, that you need to be aware of before you buy a policy.

Policy exclusions

All health insurance policies will have a standard exclusion list, which outlines certain treatments that will never appear on one of their policy options. We’ve gone into detail about policy exclusions in our blog how does health insurance work, so check that out for a list of common exclusions and more information about how they’re defined.

Past medical history

Health insurers will take your previous medical treatment into account when offering you a policy, often excluding serious illnesses or those that have taken place in the past 5 years. Some past medical conditions may be included on future policies if a certain time (set by your provider) has elapsed since the last treatment.

It can be complicated but we can help

Equity Health remove complications of finding the best policy for you; we have a lot of experience in finding and negotiating the most competitive quotes for our customers across a wide range of providers. We’ll work with you to build a quote, and we’re on hand to answer any other questions you may have regarding health insurance.

Comparing quotes is difficult, but necessary

With so many variables in health insurance policies, providers and associated benefits, we advise everyone to compare health insurance; quite simply, you want the most comprehensive policy for the most competitive price. While you can use an online comparison tool, it won’t account for the small details that make a policy suited to you nor advise you on the most appropriate underwriting method for your past medical history. We recommend that you speak to us directly.

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Prices rising

Health insurance providers look at many different factors when assessing your policy application, one of these being age. Unfortunately, as your age increases, more often than not your health insurance premium will rise too. The reason behind this is that you’re more likely to require medical care as you age, and the price increase reflects that increased demand for the service. However, the impact of this can be offset through members benefits such as no claims discounts. For more information on the factors that contribute towards your policy premium, read our blog what is health insurance?

Is health insurance worth it?

Well, it depends on who you are, your circumstances, and whether you can relate to the benefits of health insurance we’ve listed above. Health insurance isn’t for everyone right now, but understanding the benefits on offer may help you to make a decision down the line.
If you can see the benefit in health insurance, then we have one final piece of advice. You may be losing out if you opt for a generic, low-coverage policy that isn’t built around your specific requirements, preferences and needs. A health insurance policy should support your personal medical health and supplement the treatments available from the NHS. Therefore, if you’re considering a health insurance policy, talk to a specialist advisor who will not only be able to answer your questions, but will work with you and their network of providers to offer you a comprehensive policy.

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