Advantages and disadvantages of private health insurance

Private health insurance is a product that is often misunderstood by people because policies vary so widely from insurer to insurer. Private health insurance complements the service offered by the NHS and allows people to receive private treatment if they do not wish to be treated by the National Health Service. Premiums are paid monthly, quarterly or annually and sometimes a deductible can be added to the policy to reduce this amount.

So what are the benefits of buying private health insurance?

With private health insurance, you can avoid the long NHS waiting list and receive treatment at a time that suits you. After you have visited your GP and have your claim approved by your private health insurer, you can choose a time and date to receive treatment that fits into your personal schedule.

In addition, you can choose a private hospital where you want to be treated. Perhaps there is a private hospital near you that has an excellent reputation. With private health insurance you are insured for treatment in this hospital. Facilities in private hospitals are second to none. You will be treated in an ensuite room with a TV and personal nurse call button, and a choice of carefully prepared meals. Outside of NHS wards, you also avoid hospital superbugs such as MRSA and C. difficile.

Private health insurance also gives you the chance to be treated for your entire condition by a top consultant or specialist. This means that you no longer switch between doctors you don’t know and those who don’t know you. With private health insurance, you will be treated by a leading doctor in your field who is fully aware of your medical history.

Another advantage of private health insurance is the chance to access medicines and treatments that are not available on the NHS. The NHS has a limited budget and sometimes cancer drugs are turned down because they are too expensive to prescribe for free. However, when you compare health insurance plans with full cancer coverage, you get access to licensed cancer drugs regardless of cost. These can help you recover fully.

But what are the drawbacks?

Private health insurance is one of the more expensive insurance products on the market. Some people think they can’t afford the cost of the monthly premiums. However, when you compare health insurance plans, you can add discount schemes that lower the price. Deductible, six-week waiting period, and abbreviated hospital lists can all be added to the policy to make it a bit more affordable.

Private health insurance does not cover chronic conditions. However, some policies will cover an ‘acute flare-up’ of a chronic condition if the condition occurs after you took out the policy. This means that if you develop asthma after taking out private health insurance, your policy can cover the cost of the initial consultation and diagnostic tests, as well as stabilizing any acute flare-ups.

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Another disadvantage of health insurance is that it does not cover conditions you have acquired in the last 5 years (pre-existing conditions) in the first two years of the policy. With a moratorium policy, the condition may be covered if you go advice, treatment and symptom-free for that condition for two years. There are also “fixed” moratorium policies, which promise to cover agreed pre-existing conditions after two years on the policy, whether or not they recur during that time. When comparing health insurance policies online, make sure you understand which type of insurance is right for you.

While there are downsides to private health insurance, comparing health insurance plans ensures you’re getting the best policy for your money and taking full advantage of the UK health care system.