It only takes a day of suffering with illness to bring sharp focus to the immeasurable value of health. Yet unlike our home, car and even our pets, it is not second nature to insure for our own private healthcare. In a country with a National Health Service that is free at point of use and is somewhat treated as a national treasure, this may seem fair enough, but could we be over-looking the additional benefits and peace of mind? We take a look at why now, in this new decade, it could be more relevant than ever to consider private health insurance.
First and foremost, it is important to understand what private health insurance is and how it works. Also known as health insurance, private medical insurance or PMI, private health insurance is an insurance policy, which covers the cost of private healthcare. It does not compete with the NHS; it complements it to achieve reduced waiting times, access to additional treatments and medications and makes the whole process more comfortable; with choice over hospitals and consultants and access to private en-suite rooms instead of wards.
As with any insurance, different policies vary, and benefits such as outpatient care and physiotherapy can be included or not, depending on the cover you require and the budget available. Whilst the key benefits of private health insurance remain constant, factors affecting the strain on the NHS continue to change and may leave you looking for a safety net to fall back on should you need it.
Increasing Waiting Times
According to The Health Foundation’s ‘NHS performance and Waiting Times’ report, “Essential parts of the NHS in England are experiencing the worst performance against waiting times targets since the targets were set. . . . This includes the highest proportion of people waiting over 18 weeks for non-urgent (but essential) hospital treatment since 2008” . 18 weeks may not seem completely unreasonable when discussing politics, but have you ever thought how more than four months struggling, unable to work perhaps, while waiting for an operation would actually impact your life? Private Medical Insurance means being able to access private treatment, so diagnosis and treatment can get underway much quicker.
An Ageing Population
It’s no secret that the population of the UK is ageing; rising life expectancy and declining fertility rates leads to an increasing median age. The Office for National Statistics projects that more than 24% of people living in the UK will be aged 65 or older by 2042, up from 18% in 2016 . The implications on the NHS of a larger, non-working, over 65 year old percentage of the population relying on a health system without a larger working percentage to support it, seem inevitable. Any subsequent restrictions on the NHS and its availability of treatment could be avoided by having access to the private sector.
The Question of Brexit
As we transition to become independent from the European Union, inevitable changes lurk on the horizon; from the EU workforce, to access to medicines and collaborative research, the possibility of at least some increased stress and confusion on the NHS seems inventible and the compounding of its current issues, likely. Private Medical Insurance takes the strain off the system, quickly and effectively treating acute conditions.
According to the Office of National Statistics: “The number of self-employed increased from 3.3 million people (12.0% of the labour force) in 2001 to 4.8 million (15.1% of the labour force) in 2017 . Access to private healthcare can be invaluable to those who are self-employed or anyone with a job with which timing is important, as it allows you to choose appointment times and locations.
Private health insurance is not possible for everyone and it is important to research the best policy for you and your individual requirements. It is definitely worth considering carefully though, now more than ever. With health and wellbeing arguably our most important investment; it’s hard to put a price on something we actually, cannot live without.