Regardless of what politicians have been promising about the standards of the NHS, the fact is that people are suffering from waiting to be referred to a GP, hearing about surgeries, and waiting times in A&E. The average waiting time for a GP appointment is now two weeks, and hospital waiting times are equally bad. Despite what you may feel about politics, you can’t deny that sometimes you need to be seen right away, which is why many people are now considering private medical insurance. But is this really the best solution? Weigh up the pros and cons and see which scheme is best for you.
Although waiting times on the NHS have improved to a maximum of 18 weeks between referral and treatment, you won’t have to wait this long if you’ve gone private. These queue jumping benefits extend to specialist treatments, GP appointments, surgeries, and specialist clinics. As if that weren’t tempting enough, with private medical insurance (PMI) you can choose your consultant and where you want to be treated – although you should note that some policies restrict treatment to set lists of hospitals. If you’re happy with your consultant, you can see them each time you go in, ensuring continuity of care with your treatment.
Many naysayers of PMI argue that paying for healthcare reduces patients to a customer in a business model, but is that necessarily a bad thing? While it is true that private medical companies are essentially a business, this does mean they will do anything to keep you on as a customer. This means you will likely have more time to talk to your doctors, and spend less time in waiting rooms. Sometimes you really do get what you pay for. Some economic theories state that competition between businesses for the same share of the market actually produces better results for the consumer, as all businesses will try and deliver higher quality care or lower prices than their competitors to win more customers.
The biggest argument against PMI is that not everyone can afford it. Not only does this mean that fewer people will have access to healthcare, but the best doctors will be lured away from the NHS due to more lucrative offers, leaving fewer qualified professionals to care for those who don’t have insurance. This will put further strain on the existing NHS and only make their problems worse.
Also, having health insurance doesn’t necessarily mean you’re always covered for treatments. Once you’ve got a referral from your GP, you need to call your insurance company to check they will cover the costs before you see the consultant or arrange any treatment. If you develop a condition that isn’t already covered by your insurance, you might have to pay more to get yourself covered. You should also note that most policies only cover short-term illness or injuries.
As with everything, there are pros and cons to PMI. In this case, it’s better to consider what is best for you.