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Private Medical Care; Insurance Verses Self Pay

Jun 20, 2008
Private medical insurance is becoming an increasingly popular option for many people today, maybe due to the large waiting lists of NHS hospitals but also because people want all the benefits of private medical care. Recent estimates believe that almost eight million people chose to take out private medical insurance last year but this is not always the option for everyone.

It may be the case that you have only just found out you are ill or maybe you simply do not want to have to pay the monthly instalments. If either of these are the case it may be worth using private medical care along self-pay lines. Self pay is simply the payment for a one-off surgery directly and is also becoming popular with a wide and diverse cross section of society.

But why go private; is there that much wrong with our nationalised medical care institutions? Fundamentally there is nothing wrong with the care and treatment undertaken in NHS hospitals. The most common reason for people to go private is the waiting lists for certain types of surgery, the longest being for hip replacements.

It is often the case that around seven hundred thousand people will be waiting for operations on the NHS; this does not include those waiting for diagnosis. Understandably those in discomfort, rather than wait are visiting private medical care institutions for a solution, albeit at a premium.

It is important to weigh up the cost of the pain and suffering against the cost of medical care privately. Traditionally it has been the case that doctors have advised some people with non-urgent surgery to seek private consultations. Such instances are hernias and hip replacements. For urgent surgery such as heart disease patients should probably go to the NHS although this situation is rapidly changing. The benefits of private care are clearly evident, your own room, a full al a carte menu and unrestricted visiting hours are some of the most powerful lures.

But what is the best way to pay for this private medical care? Should you go for insurance or for a self-pay option? Naturally there are certain considerations to made when making this decision.

The first of these considerations is age. If you are older you will have to pay a higher insurance premium. This is due to the fact that as we get older the instances where we may need medical treatment increase. Comparatively self pay systems do not usually charge more for older patients although if the recovery period may be longer than usual, a premium may be added.

In addition to your age an insurance policy will look into your medical history. An insurance policy will rarely cover existing medical problems; that is anything diagnosed before the policy comes into effect. For instance, for those who have a history of cardiac surgery will not have heart operations included in the policy. On the other hand a self pay method means that you simply pay for the care you need.

As well as this, insurance premiums understandably have exemptions for certain situations. For example, chronic or long term conditions will rarely be covered by policies, in the same vein treatments such as cosmetic surgery and baby delivery will not be covered. In these instances, self pay is more advisable; with long term conditions however this could prove to be expensive.

Arranging a self pay operation is simple enough and can be likened to having building work undertaken on your home, it is important to ring around hospitals and get quotes of the price. For those who feel this may be too much work clearly the insurance route is the way to go. Many will take private medical insurance simply for the peace of mind it brings, this will not be the case for everyone however, if you have the foresight to put money away for treatments, self pay could be the path to follow. Either way, seemingly private care will become increasingly popular in the coming years.
About the Author
Medical expert Thomas Pretty looks into the different ways in which private medical care is paid for.
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