Also referred to as self-pay healthcare, there is an affordable alternative to health insurance
Yes. You do not have to rely upon PMI (private medical insurance) as the vehicle that takes you through the private healthcare journey. Patients can pay for private treatment with cash, credit card or cheque, which is referred to as self-pay healthcare. There are also various finance options, which help you spread the cost over a number of months, either interest-free or interest bearing (ranging from six to sixty months).
There are many reasons why a patient would consider going private without insurance. A major motivation as we enter a quasi-end state of Covid-19 is the excessive waiting times for NHS treatment, particularly for elective (non-urgent) surgery.
As Richard Gregory, independent healthcare consultant in the UK, explains, “The main motivation for going private is the waiting times. It is normally faster to be seen and treated in the private sector. Then there is also the quality of access. So, for example, you can choose the day of your appointment. You can choose the date, the time, and the place of your operation. You can choose your doctor. So effectively, it's easier for a patient to exercise choice.”
In many cases, some people are not able to get insured for the treatment they want. Reasons for this could include the patient having a pre-existing health condition, chronic illness or require an organ transplant. Insurers will also not cover cosmetic (aesthetic) procedures.
There are three main options when it comes to self-paying for private healthcare, which are:
Paying the full amount upfront
Paying upfront for a private procedure is an option best suited for a patient with easily accessible savings. For example, a patient who has put money aside, which they would usually put into health insurance, in order to have access to it when a health issue arises. However, there are many separate costs that need to be considered when calculating the full cost of the treatment, such as consultation fees, diagnostics, the procedure itself and then any aftercare or medicine.
Personalised medical loan
Most private healthcare providers now offer the option of a medical loan tailored to your treatment by partnering with a specialist finance company. This option is growing fast in popularity among patients, as it allows them to spread the cost of treatment over a specified period at very low rates of interest and in many cases, interest-free. For example, Nuffield Health partner with Chrysalis Finance to provide this finance option, and likewise, Spire Healthcare partner with Omni Capital Retail Finance. But how much interest will there be?
“There are interest-free options over anything between six months and 12 months. And then you have interest-bearing options from 12 months up to 60 months, and those options are subject to an [Annual Percentage Rate] APR,” says Gregory. “And that APR will normally vary between 9.9% and 12.9%, and in some instances, it could be 14.9%.
The use of credit cards to pay for healthcare is of course widespread as in all other retail sectors. There are certain credit cards, which have their merits. For example, there are credit cards with interest-free periods on purchases of over two years. What’s more, some cards even give you the opportunity to earn rewards.
Careful consideration should however be given. With expensive treatments, for example a total hip replacement, there’s a risk that the patient will not pay off the debt within an initial interest-free period. This leads to an outstanding balance subject to high APRs. Alternatively, patients could also pay the minimum repayment each month and prolong the period of debt and even increase the total cost of debt, when taking into account the credit card company’s APR over a longer period.
Most private healthcare providers now offer some degree of after-care service as part of a fixed-price package. It is always worth checking the terms and conditions carefully to understand the scope of this cover. In the case of one private patient who had to undergo private ligament repair surgery, he says:
“I needed physiotherapy for a number of months afterwards. I don't know how many sessions I ended up having, but it was approximately 10 sessions.”
According to Nuffield Health, the average cost for a physiotherapy appointment is between £50 and £60. If you extrapolate from the cheapest cost in that range, that could have potentially cost our private patient an additional £500 for physiotherapy alone if this after-care had not been included in his package price.
Yes, it is possible to return to NHS treatment after receiving a private consultation, diagnostic test, or treatment. Patients will ordinarily start their private healthcare journey by seeing their NHS GP, and the options they are presented may not necessarily include going private. There could be the option to avoid waiting long periods of time for a diagnostic appointment, which the GP may not mention.
This was the scenario that was presented to our private patient, as they explain, “There were some question marks at the beginning, because I started my care in the NHS as many people do. I was referred for an MRI scan, but I was not told that I could have gone for a private MRI scan to avoid the waiting lists, and then gone back into the NHS to see a specialist.”
Remaining on the NHS or using private health insurance aren’t the only options! Self-pay is rapidly growing in popularity as a direct result of the growing NHS waiting lists post COVID. Consequently, more patients are now exercising their option to self-pay healthcare and dipping their toes into the metaphorical waters of private healthcare in the UK.
Find the right one
You can find all of this information on GoPrivate.com, which helps you find the right private hospital or consultant: