In the UK, a system of fully publicly funded healthcare operates under the NHS (National Health Service). The NHS provides free healthcare to all UK citizens. This can include anything from small treatments provided by dentists, opticians or a walk-in centre to serious medical issues treated in a hospital or emergency service. The only fee the NHS charges is prescription fees; a prescription charge is currently £7.40. The NHS is funded by compulsory national health insurance that all working, tax-paying UK residents must contribute to by law. The advantage of public healthcare is that in the case of any medical treatment, be it by a local GP or surgeon, the individual will not be charged. Many operations cost thousands of pounds so numerous individuals simply could not afford to be treated without the existence of public healthcare. Another advantage is that all UK residents are eligible for public healthcare; the only requirement is a permanent UK address. However, one of the disadvantages of public healthcare is that it is only allocated a certain budget by the government and therefore its resources are not infinite. Residents may have to be put on a waiting list for non-critical conditions and will have less choice as to where they will be hospitalised, although all residential areas will have a local hospital or medical service.
Private Health Insurance
Private health insurance works much in the same way as any other form of insurance; a premium is paid to a health insurance company, either monthly, yearly or in a lump sum, to ensure that should you require urgent medical attention, you will be able to gain access to private healthcare. Private healthcare promises a much shorter waiting time than the NHS and is often said to offer facilities of a higher quality than publicly funded hospitals. You are also offered a wider choice of consultants, specialists or treatment locations. These make up many of the advantages of private health insurance. In some cases, private healthcare policies will promise to pay all or a partial amount of medical treatment you require. However, a disadvantage is that private health insurance can be costly, especially if you have a pre-existing medical condition.
Why buy Private Health Insurance?
Private health insurance is often seen as an additional top-up to the NHS. Routine medical treatments, such as seeing a GP for common illnesses, are often sufficiently catered for under the public healthcare system. However, private health insurance provides peace of mind for those who would like have more control and protect themselves against significant medical issues, such as those requiring surgery or a long-term disease. If you are young and healthy, and comfort is not a crucial issue, then private health insurance is generally unnecessary as you will be seen to promptly in the case of emergencies or accidents whether you have private healthcare or not.
Private Health Insurance Companies
The most popular health insurance companies in the UK include Bupa, Axa and Aviva. Health insurance companies offer policies tailored to your specific needs and policy prices are based on how many options you decide to include. Health insurance companies can provide you with a free quote or you can use a price comparison website to establish the cost of private health insurance for you or your family.