Questions about the significance of socialised healthcare grace the headlines on a regular basis. For example, horror stories about extortionate price
Questions about the significance of socialised healthcare grace the headlines on a regular basis. For example, horror stories about extortionate prices of US medical procedures have shocked people across the world, especially here in the UK, making us feel even more grateful for our incredible NHS. However, in the past year we’ve seen a major spike in the demand for health insurance, while interest in private healthcare has doubled.
“Private health insurance is certainly worth it if you want control over when and where you receive medical treatment,” explain health insurance experts at Healthcare Clarity. According to them, this is “something which has become very important to many people as NHS resources become increasingly stretched”. This is certainly one of the main reasons for the sudden interest in insurance policies, however, there are a few other factors that may have affected this shift too. So, why are more and more Brits considering the private route? Let’s delve in.
The impact of COVID-19
As humans, we’re not particularly keen on thinking about our own mortality, and at the end of the day, we’d all rather spend our money on an exotic holiday or a fancy restaurant meal rather than assurance for a rainy day that might not ever come. COVID has changed that in more ways than one. Firstly, even if we really wanted to, we simply couldn’t go abroad or have a gourmet dining experience. Suddenly, our expenses have shrunk massively. For many, it came hand-in-hand with unfortunate job losses or furloughs, but the lucky ones who managed to maintain a steady income swiftly found themselves with more cash than before, and not much to do with it.
Secondly, the pandemic has reminded us that this ‘rainy day’ might come any minute. The constant discourse surrounding our health has highlighted the need for us to take care of ourselves both physically and mentally. This, coupled with firsthand personal experiences of coronavirus impacting our friends, family and community means that people aren’t just thinking about their health in more detail. For many, having access to the best-quality healthcare is now essential.
Growing burden on the NHS
The effect of COVID was not the only factor causing a shift in our perception. The pandemic has exacerbated what was an NHS that was already drowning, with 4.4 million people waiting for care — 162,000 of those have been waiting for more than a year. Resources are drained and an acute staff shortage doesn’t seem to be getting any better, so experts are warning that this NHS crisis will be felt by patients for a long time. This also means that the chances of seeing specialists are shrinking, with GPs taking on the brunt of the work. Of course, GPs have been doing an incredible job –– within and outside of the pressures of COVID –– but sometimes a specialist is necessary.
More and more Brits feel that, despite the heroic attempts from its workers, the NHS just doesn’t give them the care they require, or will require in the worst-case situations. With health insurance, people know waiting times are cut or even completely removed, specialists can be seen on-demand, and facilities can be chosen, unlike on the NHS where there are constraints on where patients can be treated.
Rising healthcare costs
This past year has seen double the number of patients paying for private operations. As the NHS drags behind with an ever-increasing backlog, more and more people have preferred to absorb the costs and go private. However, this can be expensive, so a growing number of people are interested in investing in medical insurance to cover these charges.
Interestingly, the global demand for health insurance has risen amongst working-class adults. This is likely due to increased healthcare costs combined with a decreased sense of job security following the recent market instability. Less well-off people could be concerned that if they need to cut NHS waiting times and go private for the sake of keeping their jobs, they might not be able to afford the rising prices of private healthcare. Some policies also cover long hospitalisation periods.
Widespread knowledge about the health insurance market
Thanks to the internet, it’s easy for people to do their own research and make informed decisions that suit them and their individual circumstances. This has helped debunk myths about health insurance, proving that not only are premiums sometimes lower than people assume, but also that policies can cover much more than is commonly believed. More people are also aware that private healthcare and the NHS are not mutually exclusive — patients can often mix and match treatments. With this knowledge, people feel empowered to make their own choices regarding their health, or opt for services that help them find the best options for their needs.