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Do you need private healthcare?

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If the headlines are to be believed, the NHS is in near-constant crisis. People worried about waiting times and cancelled operations may be tempted to go private, but is health insurance worth it?

How much does it cost?

This will depend primarily on your age and state of health. The average cost is £1,349 per year, according to Active Quote, but it can be far cheaper if you are willing to limit your cover. For example, some plans only cover treatment while you are in hospital, some only cover specific conditions. You can pay a higher excess to keep costs low. At each point, you need to decide what is most important to you and tailor your insurance package accordingly.

What does it do?

Almost all treatment is covered on the NHS. That means that the only time you really need private health care is when you want access to a drug that the NHS doesn’t cover (as is the case with some life-prolonging cancer drugs).

However, private healthcare can help you jump the queue. This may be important for non-essential operations on the NHS that may be bumped. It may also be important for early intervention in progressive diseases such as cancer.

You also get to choose your surgeon and your hospital. You may also be able to secure a private room for your recovery.

What can’t it do?

While there are private options for each of these areas, private health insurance won’t cover you for the following:

  • Emergency care
  • Organ transplants
  • Injuries from dangerous sports
  • Cosmetic surgery
  • Pre-existing conditions
  • Long-term conditions such as diabetes or HIV/AIDS

Consider paying individually

It is possible to book and pay for diagnostic tests yourself. It is estimated that around 20% of patients do this. A simple MRI scan costs around £200 in London. A hip replacement would generally cost around £10,000. Prices vary and so it is worth shopping around. Doing it this way means you don’t have to jump through any hoops with the insurance company, which may often have their own preferred hospitals or providers.

Look at what is provided through your employer

Employers will often receive bulk discounts on private healthcare, so it will probably be cheaper doing it through your employer. You should note, however, that it will be taxed as a benefit in kind, so is not completely ‘free’.

Review your policy frequently

Insurers have a nasty habit of hiking their prices stealthily year-on-year. Review your policy regularly to make sure you are not paying over the odds.

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