Updated: December 09, 2019

Is Private Medical Insurance Worth It?

Are you weighing up the value of private medical insurance? We explore costs vs. benefits, and how to find the best deal for your budget

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Richard Angliss

Author: Richard Angliss - Finance Expert

Updated: December 09, 2019

If you’re a resident of the UK, you’ll automatically be entitled to free medical care from the National Health Service (NHS). In addition, some people opt for private medical insurance (also referred to as private health insurance) which may be included as a benefit from your employer, or you may decide to take it out yourself.

In this article we’ll be looking at the advantages and disadvantages of private health insurance and whether it’s better than just opting for public healthcare so you can decide whether it’s right for you.

Is private medical insurance worth it?

It depends on the level of cover you opt for and your own personal needs. Private medical insurance can supplement the NHS treatments already available to you, and it could gain you access to a wealth of benefits including reduced waiting times, more resources and specialist treatments.

You’ll see the most benefits if you take out a comprehensive plan, though this doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll have to pay through the roof.

Read our pros and cons sections below to see if medical insurance is a good idea for your circumstances.

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What are the benefits of private health insurance?

There are plenty of benefits to taking out private medical insurance.

There may be some variation between providers but you can expect the following:

Reduced waiting times
More say in your treatment
More privacy

With private medical insurance, you can skip the queues and get access to faster treatment.

The NHS is an invaluable service, but if you want treatment, you could end up waiting a while. Accessing services should take under 18 weeks, but only 84.8% of them do – missing the 92% target.

For example, an average NHS wait for an appointment or procedure like a scan can be around six weeks. With private medical cover, you’ll be able to see a specialist quicker usually within a week.

With private medical insurance, you can access treatment from clinics at a much faster rate.

With private medical care you may be able to have more of a say in your treatment, from which hospital and with which professionals. You may even be able to have access to specialist drugs that aren’t available on the NHS.

You’ll normally get your own private room as opposed to being on the ward if you need to stay in hospital, and typically with your own en-suite bathroom.

This is a priority for many patients who are seeking privacy when they are recovering from their treatment and feeling vulnerable.

What are the potential problems with private health insurance?

While there are plenty of benefits, you may experience some drawbacks to private medical insurance.

These include:

Limitations to treatments
Increasing premiums

Not all conditions are covered by medical insurance. For example, if you have a pre-existing medical condition such as a chronic illness like diabetes, need an organ transplant or require treatment for some types of cancer, these will be outside of insurance cover in which case you’ll have to revert to using the NHS.

Similarly, pregnancy-related cover isn’t something that’s offered privately.

Also, the treatment you want may not be available locally, so it may be easier to use the NHS.

Private medical insurance premiums tend to rise each year in line with your age. The older you get, the more likely you are to require medical assistance.

By the time you may need it, the premiums may be too expensive to make it worthwhile.

Is it worth getting private health insurance?

This is for you to decide, and your decision may be based on your lifestyle. For example, if you’re active and concerned about getting injuries, private insurance could save you time when it comes to seeing a specialist. You may also get access to specialists who work privately whose services aren’t available on the NHS.

Alternatively, you could save money by not paying for insurance then if you require a specialist for any reason, you can book an appointment and pay when you need it.

You should also compare if there are any non-treatment benefits that may appeal to you – some providers offer free gym membership or vouchers and may even extend cover to family members.

Private health insurance vs using the NHS

When you try to weigh up the differences between private health insurance versus our universal healthcare that’s available through the government’s free NHS scheme, other than the benefits of having private health insurance listed above, the NHS has many of the same benefits.

For example, if you require urgent treatment for a condition like suffering a heart attack or need to go into intensive care, the NHS will undertake treatment urgently. Private healthcare doesn’t cover emergency treatment.

Where private becomes more beneficial is if you need to see a specialist that perhaps the NHS doesn’t offer, such as sports therapist or physiotherapist.

It’s worth being aware that it’s also common to use both services. You may end up seeing a specialist using your private medical insurance but decide to get the actual treatment done by the NHS because they have the experience and facilities that you need.

What is permanent health insurance?

Permanent health insurance (also known as income protection) provides you with an income if you are unable to work.

You may find it beneficial to combine both private medical insurance with income protection so you don’t lose out on your earnings during your recovering.

For more information on how to combine both plans, speak with an advisor.

Should I also get life insurance or private health insurance?

If you’re debating whether to get private medical insurance or life insurance, it’s worth understanding what each product does and how they could work better together.

Life insurance will payout in the event that you pass away. While private medical insurance can provide you with plenty of benefits, it won’t help your family financially should you pass away while going through treatment.

For more information about the benefits of taking out both insurance types, make an enquiry.

Which is the best private health insurance provider?

There is no one ‘best’ provider, though there’s definitely a provider out there who’s best for you. Each private health insurance policy varies, and how much they charge and what you may be required to pay as an excess before your treatment becomes free.

You may even be weighing up the difference between employer health insurance versus private if your employer doesn’t offer a level of private medical cover that you want, in which case you can choose not to sign up to it and go with a provider of your choice.

What is covered is the most important aspect. Look to see if a policy includes mental health, depression and sports injuries; these are the conditions that some will cover and some won’t. In addition, even if you pay for insurance you may need to pay a premium to see specialists so again check this out before you sign up.

Speak to an expert

The insurance experts we work with are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), so they’re ideal for giving you the best advice. They also have access to the entire insurance market, so they can cherrypick private medical insurance deals that best suit your circumstances.

Make an enquiry today and we’ll match you with an expert for a free, no-obligation chat.

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Richard Angliss

Richard Angliss

Finance Expert

About the author

Richard Angliss has made a career in financial services which stretches over 40 years.

His early career was spent learning about the various financial products and applying them to prudent advice, working for one of the largest life assurance and investment firms. After that he joined the financial services arm of a very well-known firm providing independent advice to their 8 million customers.

For the last 20 years he has been involved in building software solutions that help Advisers and clients work together to achieve good financial outcomes and helping to set up three independent advisory firms. He also has written many articles for financial services publications and provided commentary for newspaper journalists.

At an early stage in his career he realised the great satisfaction that comes with being able to help people achieve their goals and protect their families. “Regulation of financial services has hugely impacted on ensuring people get appropriate advice. The issue these days is access to that advice and just as importantly regular reviews to make sure that everything stays on track”.

With the growing development of online resources such as Online Money Advisor he sees a great future for people to access advice to make their pension and investment work harder for them.  Plus, of course, to ensure they have insurance products in place that will be required when unforeseen events happen.

He knows getting that balance right is crucial to prudent financial planning and the wellbeing of individuals and their families.

FCA Disclaimer

*Based on our research, the content contained in this article is accurate as of the most recent time of writing. Lender criteria and policies change regularly so speak to one of the advisors we work with to confirm the most accurate up to date information. The information on the site is not tailored advice to each individual reader, and as such does not constitute financial advice. All advisors working with us are fully qualified to provide mortgage advice and work only for firms that are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. They will offer any advice specific to you and your needs.

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