What Private Medical Insurance Covers
Whilst it is possible to self-fund private treatment, many of us won’t have the funds available required for some treatments, which can cost as much £100,000 per annum and so taking out a medical insurance policy can provide this valuable access to treatment.
Just like a car insurance policy, there are various levels of cover you can choose for your healthcare, ranging from budget inpatient only plans to fully comprehensive options which include access to all the London teaching hospitals.
Why wait for treatment?
There are many good reasons to invest in your health by taking out a private medical insurance policy, with one of the main reasons being to reduce the wait for treatment. Projections by the NHS Confederation has estimated that the NHS waiting list could rise from around 4 million currently to as many as 10 million people waiting for treatment by the end of 2020 (BBC Source).
Whilst we can document age expectancy, mortality rates and waiting lists, there is no public measure of pain! The 18 week target has been abandoned for hip and knee replacements, cataract surgery and hernia repairs. Some are having to wait in excess of 130 days for routine physiotherapy (cover magazine source).
Mental health has been brought to the forefront particularity with the recent global pandemic. Anybody who has needed psychiatric services will know that there can be long delays in accessing treatment, where a PMI policy can provide immediate access to specialists and treatment.
Privately paid specialist consultations and an MRI scan can cost up to c£2,000 and so when we do experience symptoms of a possible condition without any PMI in place, we are unlikely to double check privately, instead relying on the NHS which can mean a long wait.
With the exception of acute conditions which go away on their own accord, many conditions will deteriorate unless they are treated and, in some cases as with cancer, it’s so important to get as early diagnosis as possible to ensure the best chances of a quick recovery.
If you are paying for a medical insurance plan which includes diagnostic cover, you are much more likely to use this to access early diagnostics and quicker treatment, where early intervention might just save your life.
Private Cancer Treatment
In 2011 the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) was set up with a budget of £200M. Through the success of those treatments offered and wider use, this had increased to £380M just 4 years later (the Guardian Source). The NHS has had to make difficult decisions, one of which was to remove over 16 cancer drugs used in 23 cancer treatments.
Those benefiting from those treatments were told they would have to self-fund (some of which costing up to £90,000 per annum) and new patients were simply being denied access to these drugs.
Most private medical insurance plans have the option to include fully comprehensive Cancer cover which includes drugs which are no longer available on the NHS. In addition, cover may be available to access pioneering cancer treatments at internationally renowned centres of excellence such as the Royal Marsden and the BUPA Cromwell, the latter being the only private hospital in the UK which offers a less invasive type of Radiotherapy (Tomotherapy).
Wider Choice of Specialists
When offered a consultation or treatment on the NHS very often we don't give it a second thought, but if it was our car we are repairing, we would want recommendations and some assurance that we have the best mechanic available.
There will be specialists leading their field with a proven track record in treating patients. PMI can offer a choice of specialists and facilities, which may not be available on the NHS and so if you want the leading knee specialist to treat you, there will be plans available to include them.
Private GP services
Before the Covid 19 pandemic, The Times reported that more than 11 million people wait more than 3 weeks to see their GP, and as many as 5.6 million wait for more than 1 month. Private medical insurers have responded to the demand for private GP services and many now offer virtual as well as private face to face GP appointments which can also include sending medicine the next day by courier.
These services have been widely used during the 2020 pandemic, with companies such as UNUM reporting a 400% increase in their use, to provide valuable access to GP services.
Exceptional Private Facilities
Many people who receive treatment at a private hospital remark that it’s more like staying in a hotel. Rather than have to share a ward, trying to get some sleep with all the noise and lights on, you are guaranteed a private room. They very often have their own specialist restaurants where the food is excellent, and visiting hours are much more flexible so there is no fighting over a parking space in the limited 2 hours on the NHS.
Importantly, as the footfall is much lower in private facilities, there is a significantly lower chance of contracting MRSA and other communicable diseases in a private facility.
Flexible Treatment Dates
NHS treatment in many cases will be booked months in advance, on a date or time which isn't necessarily suitable to you.
You might want to delay treatment as you are going on holiday for example, but don't want to miss your slot. With private treatment you will have some flexibility in choosing a day and time which suits you, so that you can work around your existing engagements.