An Overview Of Health Insurance In Britain

Approximately 5.1 million Britons have private health insurance. According to ABI (Association of British Insurers) statistics, £7.4 million is paid out every day in private medical insurance claims. In this article we look at:

  • Whether private health insurance is a worth considering
  • How much medical insurance costs
  • Where you can buy health insurance
  • The European health insurance card

Is private health insurance worth it in the UK?

Many Britons don’t see the necessity for private health insurance since they believe cover provided by the NHS is enough for their needs. However, there might be occasions when private health insurance is worth it. One benefit is that private medical insurance allows policyholders to avoid NHS waiting lists. From the initial consultation and diagnosis to their treatment, they can access healthcare much faster.

Private medical insurance allows policyholders to avoid NHS waiting lists

Another advantage is that private health insurance gives patients access to specialist drugs which might have been approved by the National Institute for Health & Care, but which are unavailable on the NHS because of their cost. Some policies also allow policyholders to access more experimental treatments and alternative therapies. Finally, if patients require a hospital stay, private medical insurance will often cover the costs of a private room with better facilities rather than a shared ward.

How much does medical insurance cost?

There are many factors which affect the cost of medical insurance premiums. The first is your personal circumstances such as:

  • your age
  • your postcode
  • your state of health
  • your lifestyle choices (such as smoking)
  • type of policy (individual, joint or family)

Your choice of cover and the terms and conditions of the policy will also play a role in how much your health insurance premiums are. Such factors include:

  • level of excess (per year, per claim or a set percentage)
  • a fully-underwritten or moratorium policy
  • any optional add-ons
  • limits on treatments

Where can I buy health insurance?

There are many specialised private health insurance companies in the UK. Before taking out a policy, check with your employer because many offer private medical insurance as part of employee perks.

An elderly lady is shown visiting the doctor

If you don’t have this cover, using several online price comparison sites is the best way to get an idea of what’s on the market. However, these sites must be used with caution. Unlike other types of insurance, it’s very difficult to compare like-for-like policies as they all vary in what they offer so you must understand their terms, conditions and exclusions. If you require customised health cover, it might be a good idea to consult a specialist insurance broker. You don’t usually have to pay fees as they’re paid commission by the insurer.

Questions on British healthcare

Is healthcare free in the UK?

In the United Kingdom, healthcare is provided by the National Health Service (NHS), which is a public service offered to all permanent residents of the UK. This service is free when used by the general public, however, it is paid for from general taxation.

Do tourists get free healthcare in the UK?

For tourists visiting the UK, depending on their originating country, it may be possible to receive free healthcare by the NHS. Tourists using the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) have access to NHS services during their stay in the UK. However, for international visitors, travel insurance would be necessary for covering most non-emergency medical and dental services.

Can you buy private health insurance in England?

Since healthcare in the UK is provided to the public by the NHS, there is no reason, typically, that members of the public would opt to purchase private health insurance. Around 10% of the population of the UK opt for private medical insurance.

What is a European health insurance card (EHIC)?

A European health insurance card allows you to access state healthcare when you’re visiting EEA (European Economic Area) countries or Switzerland. You’re entitled to the same level of care as a citizen of the country. Healthcare might be free, or you may be expected to make a financial contribution. The EHIC doesn’t cover the cost of private treatment nor any repatriation costs.

The EHIC is free from the government website and is valid for 5 years. Applications can be made online upon supplying your full name, date of birth and National Insurance number.

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