Health Insurance Alternatives

Private health insurance isn't the only way to access the care and treatment you need in the UK. While having one of these health insurance policies is a bonus that allows you to skip the queues of the NHS, there are other options you can consider.

Whether you're looking to save money or explore different cover options, understanding your alternatives can help you make an informed decision.

This article highlights three main alternatives to traditional health insurance in the UK: health cash plans, self-funding treatment, and relying on the National Health Service (NHS).

Health Cash Plans

Health cash plans (HCPs) are insurance policies that help cover day-to-day healthcare costs when the NHS doesn't foot the bill. However, they do not cover unexpected medical emergencies or cancer treatment as private healthcare does.

Benefits of health cash plans

Affordability

lower monthly fee when compared to private medical insurance (PMI).

Extended range of coverage

including pre-existing conditions.

Choice of GPs

without needing a referral.

Reimbursement

for dentistry, opticians, and other kinds of therapies.

What is covered?

Routine dentist checkups

and treatment (cleaning, fillings, etc.)

Optical care

such as eye exams, checkups, and eyewear (glasses, contact lenses)

Musculoskeletal treatments

(physiotherapy, osteopathy, chiropractor, etc.)

Complementary therapies

(acupuncture, massages)

Health cash plans cover a wide range of medical conditions and treatments and can be specifically tailored to your and your family's needs. Most policies cover pre-existing conditions.

There are two main types of HCPs:

Individual policy:

covers you, your partner and/or your child/children.

Group policy:

part of your employer's Cash Plan scheme.

What isn't covered?

Cosmetic surgery

Laser eye surgery

Professional sports injuries

Non-prescription medicines or glasses

Self-Funding

As the name suggests, this option allows you to pay for private medical care out of your own pocket. The NHS offers free healthcare services but waiting times can be lengthy, which makes "self-funding" a viable option. It involves paying a private doctor, specialist or hospital directly so you can bypass long NHS queues and receive treatment sooner.

What is covered?

Typically, you can self-fund any medical treatments, including:

Gynaecology

Orthopaedic care

Cardiology

Health assessments

Weight loss surgery

Lumbar decompression

Gastroscopy

Knee/hip replacements

How do I self-fund my medical treatment?

Initial consult:

Book an appointment with a private doctor/specialist to discuss your health concerns. You can expect to pay between £40 and £250 for standard GP consultations and around £200 to £300 for specialists. They might request further diagnostic tests (blood tests, X-rays, etc.) which you are also liable to pay.

Payment:

Once you've met with the respective healthcare professionals, you'll be given two payment plan options for your medical procedure/surgery. You are not expected to pay the entire sum in one go.

1.

Price package/fixed price:

Bundles all private medical treatments into one fee. This includes private GP and other doctor consultations, hospital admission and inpatient care, medical equipment, and aftercare treatment.

2.

Pay per service:

Individual invoices are sent for each part of your medical treatment. For example, you'll pay separate amounts to the anaesthetist, the hospital and various doctors or consultants pertaining to your treatment or surgery.

Cost of private treatment and surgery

GP consultation = £40 - £250

Blood tests (London) = £34 - £620

MRI scan = £200 - £1,500

Lumbar decompression = £8,220

Gastroscopy = £1,880

Tonsillectomy = £3,084

Knee replacement = £14,449

Hip replacement = £13,402

Abdominal hysterectomy = £8,014

Carpal tunnel release = £2,088

Gallbladder removal = £6,620

Hernia repair = £3,530

Tummy tuck = £7,615

Price estimations, based on February 2024 data.

Things to consider

Self-funding can be a significant financial strain, with treatments ranging in cost from a few hundred pounds to tens of thousands for surgeries. Consider your budget carefully before choosing this option.

Benefits of self-funding

Faster access to treatment:

access health care services quicker.

Cost control:

only pay for medical services when you need them.

Flexibility:

choose any healthcare professional, specialist, or private hospital.

No insurance premiums:

avoid monthly premiums.

NHS

Taxpayers fund the NHS which provides free health and medical services to UK residents, regardless of age, income or employment status. This means you won't receive a bill for your treatment, consultation or surgery.

Unfortunately, the NHS's biggest downside is the long waiting periods. These significant delays have resulted in many individuals either self-funding their treatments or opting for private health insurance alternatives.

What is covered?

The NHS covers a broad range of medical treatments, surgeries, and preventative care, including:

GP consultations

Specialist consultations

Hospital stays

Emergency care (A&E)

Maternity care

Psychiatric treatment

Sexual health services

Medical screenings

Cancer care (radio- and chemotherapy)

And more.

What isn't covered?

Accident/sickness insurance certificates

Certain travel vaccinations

Private medical insurance reports

Letters requested by, or on behalf of, the patient

Holiday cancellation claim forms

Referral for private care forms

Medical reports for an insurance company

Some reports for the DSS/Benefits Agency

Examinations of occupational health

You will need to pay for these services.

Regional NHS waiting times

Here's an overview of typical Referral to Treatment (RTT) NHS waiting times (in weeks) for general surgery procedures:

London = 17.1

South West = 14.0

South East = 15.8

Midlands = 17.1

East of England = 17.6

North West = 17.3

North East; Yorkshire = 11.4

The waiting time for England as a whole is approximately 15.7 weeks.

Here is a more detailed overview:

Lancashire; South Cumbria = 14.0

South Yorkshire = 11.8

Herefordshire; Worcestershire = 15.8

Midlands; South Essex = 18.1

Bedfordshire; Luton; Milton Keyes = 19.1

Birmingham; Solihull = 20.6

North East; North Cumbria = 10.2

Derby; Derbyshire = 17.5

Suffolk; North East Essex = 16.3

Devon = 18.0

Lincolnshire = 14.1

Leicester; Leicestershire = 15.6

South East London = 18.5

Staffordshire; Stoke-on-Trent = 16.7

Results for January 2024. Published March 2024.

Conclusion

Each private healthcare insurance alternative we've explored offers its own set of benefits.

Health cash plans make a more affordable option, especially for those who want additional dental, optical or musculoskeletal cover.

Self-funding is a viable option but you must ensure your medical procedures are within your budget to avoid financial strain.

And while the NHS offers free healthcare to all UK residents, the average 15.4 week waiting time may not be ideal.

Chat with the My Health Pal team today - your trusted partner in navigating the complexities of insurance.

Frequently Asked Questions

Get Answers to Common Queries About Health Insurance Coverage

  • Can I include my partner or children on my PMI policy?

    Yes, most PMI providers offer the option to add family members to your policy, often at an additional cost.

  • Will my PMI premiums increase every year?

    Premiums often increase due to age and medical inflation, but specific increases depend on your provider and any claims made.

  • Can I get PMI if I have a disability?

    Yes, you can apply for PMI with a disability, but coverage for related pre-existing conditions may be limited or excluded.

  • Is there a cooling-off period after purchasing PMI?

    Yes, there’s typically a 14-day cooling-off period during which you can cancel your policy without penalty.

  • Can I use PMI for treatment abroad?

    Some PMI policies offer international coverage as an add-on, but it’s not standard and may incur higher premiums.

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