Fortunately, we are living in one of the few countries which offers universal free health care. However, there is little doubt that access to private healthcare offers a level of support above and beyond what the NHS can offer.
The benefits of private medical insurance are becoming more apparent due to the extra pressures exerted by the global pandemic. Yet, it’s fair to say that even during normal times, access to GPs, medical tests and treatments have often been limited or delayed due to high demand and limited capacity.
Unfortunately more and more people are having to resort to private medical treatment because of the huge increase in waiting times as a result of the pandemic.
Whether you’re looking for individual or family coverage, private insurance plans can make the often uncomfortable – and sometimes expensive – experience of dealing with medical problems simpler and easier, while also offering a number of benefits over standard NHS health care.
Here are the top ten benefits of private medical insurance.
Waiting times are one of the most significant problems that NHS patients face today. The number of patients in England waiting over a year for routine hospital care is now 100 times higher than before the pandemic, according to data from NHS England.
Private medical insurance will allow you to access appointments, treatments and surgeries much faster and can offer patients more flexibility when it comes to booking appointments. This alleviates the uncertainty and stress of standard NHS waiting times.
Cover the whole family
If you have other loved ones to consider, many health insurance providers offer family plans that can ensure every member of your family has the medical coverage they need. Family plans can cover spouses, children and even extended family, depending on your level of coverage.
By placing all of your family under one plan, payments are made cheaper and more convenient compared to taking out individual insurance plans for each member of your family.
Mental health coverage
Mental health coverage is often included in insurance plans, offering access to private services and treatments. The issue of mental health was already a big pre-pandemic issue but it appears to have increased significantly since. According to research by Kooth, 44% of managers’ mental health has got worse as a result of the pandemic and 56% of them believe that the employees in their organisations have suffered the same effects.
From this perspective, the inclusion of mental health coverage is an important benefit of having a private medical insurance policy and would even reduce the overall costs if you are already paying for any kind of private mental health care or prescriptions.
Access to private hospitals
Private medical insurance plans allow patients access to private hospitals across the UK, as well as the option to stay in private rooms at NHS hospitals.
Staying in hospital can often be uncomfortable, but having access to a private room can make the experience a lot more tolerable. It allows greater privacy, more space and can allow easier access to family.
Specialised drugs & treatments
Private health coverage can give you access to specialist drugs and treatments that are not available through the NHS. This is usually due to budgetary restrictions, which means it cannot afford every innovative new drug on the market – regardless of how effective it may be.
It’s true that standard NHS health care already offers a wide range of treatments and prescriptions covering almost every eventuality. But similarly to mental health services, it is possible that you would consider paying for the specialist drugs or services even without private coverage in order to get faster access.
If you’re already paying for private treatments or prescriptions (for example, physiotherapy), then private health insurance may end up lowering your costs.
Access to online appointments
Nobody likes waiting for appointments, especially when it’s a health complaint or query which could be solved quickly and easily. Many private health insurance plans offer access to online appointments, which can speed up the process and alleviate the stress of having to attend an appointment in person.
Virtual sessions can be arranged for GP appointments or more specialised consultants. You can choose to take these virtual appointments over the phone or via online video call. Some types of appointments are even available 24/7 under some providers.
If you are self-employed or run a small business, private medical insurance plans can provide tax benefits for both your business and your employees. Private medical insurance is usually not tax deductible and is typically included in P11D forms but in some cases, it can be considered a legitimate business expense.
Offering private medical cover is also an attractive perk for potential employees and can also offer them certain tax-free benefits, such as annual checkups or medical insurance when working abroad.
Some insurers give you the option to include dental cover under your private health plan. Naturally, the cost of the plan will take account of this – but it will be at a discounted rate compared to what you would pay for standalone dental cover.
Many people already choose to pay for private dental cover anyway, so if you were to pay for cover under a wider private health plan, you could ultimately save money.
Freedom of choice
The NHS is a useful service but it is limited in how it can offer its services. However private health care can offer choices in where, when and how you are treated.
With private medical insurance, you have the option to book your appointments on your own schedule, rather than working around the times that you are given by the NHS. You may even get to choose which hospital you are treated at. Or even better: arrange home visits! As always, you’ll have to check the terms of your health insurance policy.
Remember these terms can be negotiated from the outset. Insurance plans come in all shapes and sizes. It’s important to research the market and consider the areas of cover you most need and how that fits in with your budget. Each insurer offers their own set of extras so it’s important to be aware of how this affects the value of the insurance.
Peace of mind
One of the most significant benefits of private health insurance is the knowledge that your health care is taken care of. You will have the comfort of knowing that should you, or your loved ones, ever suffer any serious medical issues, you will have access to rapid treatment, the best facilities and the widest array of options for proceeding with your treatment and care.
This peace of mind will ultimately make the stressful, uncertain and uncomfortable process of dealing with medical problems easier to cope with for everyone affected. Ultimately, it gives you one less thing to worry about.
Whilst the NHS will cover most of our medical needs it will not necessarily work for you in a timely manner especially if there are long waiting lists. I consider it a useful luxury but not a necessity unless some of the benefits listed above are very important to you and they justify the additional cost.
Alternatively, you may simply decide to set some money aside in a separate account to cover private medical treatment as a kind of contingency fund and spare yourself the cost of insurance.
As ever the choice is yours. You know it makes sense.*
* The contents of this blog are for information purposes only and do not constitute individual advice. You should always seek professional advice from a specialist. All information is based on our current understanding of taxation, legislation, regulations and case law in the current tax year. Any levels and bases of relief from taxation are subject to change. Tax treatment is based on individual circumstances and may be subject to change in the future. This blog is based on my own observations and opinions.