Private healthcare. What should I do?

If you’re reviewing your expenses, you might wonder whether to continue your private medical cover. (Our retired clients often ask this question.) If you don’t have any, you might want to know if you should. This article gives our answer. The stories are all people we know, but we’ve changed their names for privacy.

Story 1

Last year, Joanne bought a 10-year-old rescue cat and named him Dippydoo. Within a fortnight, he started having fits. This was before she’d even thought about whether or not to insure him. He had blood tests, urine tests, ultrasound tests… and was eventually diagnosed with a rare form of feline epilepsy.

The various investigations cost Joanne over £1,500, with ongoing treatment topping £30 per month. She’d already paid £250 to buy him, plus the cost of his vaccinations. A few months later, he broke a tooth. That cost her another £806.

“He’s just a moggy,” she said. “And has already cost me more than a pedigree would!”

She was amazed how fast medical costs mounted up, even for a cat. At the same time, Joanne was being treated for various health conditions. She was relieved that she didn’t have to pay when she had consultations or picked up medicines from the local pharmacy, because she was covered by the NHS.

Story 2

Angela was feeling old before her time, and her eyesight was getting foggy. When she saw her optician late last year, she was advised that cataracts were coming on, but that she “shouldn’t hold her breath” waiting for an NHS appointment.

Luckily, Angela had private medical cover through Vitality Healthcare.

Her eyes were treated three weeks ago with great success. And the procedure was super-quick. She went in at lunchtime and was collected by 4pm. Job done.

Story 3

Joe’s mum is in her late 80s. Her heart was racing non-stop over the weekend, so she went to the GP on Monday morning. He told her to go straight to A&E.

Joe accompanied her to Croydon University Hospital. A&E was so overcrowded, they couldn’t get a seat. The Police were guarding one patient. Another was rolling on the floor, screaming and swearing.

After waiting seven hours (with no food other than a packet of crisps from a vending machine), his mum was put on a drip in a busy corridor with a crying woman who was having a miscarriage behind her.

“We’d admit you to the cardiac ward but we have no beds due to all the heart attacks today,” she was told.

Story 4

Andrew was experiencing abdominal pain and was unable to use the loo properly for two weeks. By the weekend, the pain reached 10/10 and all he could do was lie on the sofa, moaning.

Andrew went to Pembury hospital where a friend dropped him off. He was “pleasantly surprised” by the A&E department, had a CT scan while his companion was still parking the car, and was quickly admitted to a private room.

After receiving antibiotics for diverticulitis (a blocked colon), he was recovering at home two days later.

What this means to you

We all know how lucky we are to have our NHS, funded by National Insurance contributions from the working population. It’s amazing! Especially in emergencies. But we also know the NHS has its troubles, especially for routine procedures. Speed of service seemingly depends on your postcode.

Industrial action is currently ongoing “in the interests of patient safety”. You certainly wouldn’t have wanted to get ill on Monday 6 February, for example, when many ambulance drivers and nurses were out on strike.

That’s why, at the current time, we think private medical insurance (PMI) is even more of a good idea. It’s become a fact of life, unfortunately.
It’s not a case of skipping the queue. It’s a case of saving NHS resources (and avoiding the nightmare that can be NHS A&E, especially on a Saturday night).

We say, if you have PMI, don’t cancel it. If you don’t have PMI, and you do have the money, it’s a good way to spend it so talk to us and we’ll put you in touch with our specialist PMI broker. People on the poverty line don’t have that choice.

Lance Baron

Certified Financial Planner (CFP) based in East Sussex, UK. We support people in Southeast England with more than £500K to invest by building a financial plan that will help them live the life they want… until age 100