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Medical Care, Private, Public, Insurance Or Self Pay?

Aug 15, 2008
Far more people today are choosing to use private medical insurance rather than the National Health Service. This can be attributed to a number of reasons but predominantly it is down to the large waiting lists at many public hospitals for routine operations and treatments; additionally however, many want to utilise the benefits of private medical institutions such as private rooms, al la carte menus and unlimited visiting hours. A recent report found that around eight million people chose to take out private medical insurance policies last year. This though is not always a possibility, in some cases, insurance will not be a viable option, meaning that if your want to undergo treatment privately, a self pay scheme may be the alternative. Normally self pay refers to the payment of a surgery on a one off basis.

Is there that much wrong with our national health service however? Well fundamentally no, the majority of people are going private not because the healthcare is better, but generally because it is faster. An often cited example is that of the waiting lists for hip replacements. Currently these are some of the longest waiting lists on the NHS and considering a new hip can be a life changing operation, waiting can be extremely debilitating. While you may have to pay a premium, being treated privately will be considered by many to be a more worthwhile option.

Ultimately when deciding to go private, whether paying with insurance or a self pay scheme, it is about weighing up the debilitating effects of the ailment against the waiting time. In most cases those who choose to go private do so for routine surgical operations. As well as the previously stated hip replacement, another common form of surgery carried out in private medical care facilities is for hernias. More important and urgent surgery needs however have seemed to remain in the public sphere, although as private institutions increase their abilities, even this type of surgery is starting to be conducted privately.

As has been discussed, private medical care does have its benefits. Paying for this care however can be expensive so what is the best way to pay for treatments and surgery? Is it better to take out insurance or simply pay for treatment on a one off basis?

Insurance will not always be more financially sensible. If you are a certain stage in your life it is likely that medical insurance will cost considerably more. This is because as we get older it is usually the case that more treatment will be required. In comparison, paying for one off treatments may work out cheaper if you are in good health generally.

As well as age, both personal and family medical history will be taken into account when starting an insurance policy. Those with long term or chronic conditions will find it almost impossible to obtain insurance and in these cases the self pay option is also expensive. For chronic illnesses, patients should be advised to utilise the National Health Service as it will work out far cheaper.

Whether a patient chooses to use private or public services is entirely up to them. While the benefits of private medical care are clear, for many paying insurance premiums and even paying directly is simply out of the question. In a world where the NHS continues to be bashed in the media, the service it offers to the public cannot be underestimated. Private hospitals are becoming increasingly important though in reducing the time spent on waiting for surgery. As long as both work together, the healthcare in this country should continue to improve.
About the Author
Medical expert Thomas Pretty looks into the reasons behind the increased popularity of private medical care and the best ways to pay for treatments.
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