If you’ve struggled to see a doctor or get medical treatment in recent months, you’ll have personal experience of the huge pressure the NHS is under.

It’s therefore perhaps unsurprising that a growing number of people are turning to private medical insurance to ensure they get the treatment they need, without facing potentially lengthy delays. Around 13% of the population uses some form of paid-for private healthcare, according to a survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in December 2022. 

As well as usually enabling you to receive treatment much more quickly than you would under the NHS, having insurance means you’ll also benefit from private hospital care, and you won’t need to join a waiting list for specialist referrals. Read more in our article What does private health insurance cover? 

However, there are several other benefits to private medical insurance that you might not be aware of, which we explain here.

1. You can get cover for the whole family

Many private health insurance providers offer family policies that will cover medical treatment for every family member. Depending on your needs, these policies may include spouses, children and even extended family members. Buying a single policy that covers your entire family can make the process of buying private medical insurance simpler, and is often more cost-effective than taking out individual plans for each member. 

If you’re an unmarried couple, you may be able to take out a joint couple health insurance policy that could cost hundreds of pounds a year less than paying for two individual plans. As long as you live at the same address, this type of policy is offered by many of the major providers. 

However, private medical insurance premiums can be expensive, and the cost will rise as you get older. For example, a typical premium for two adults in their 50s with two children could set you back as much as £4,000 or more per year. This means cover will be unaffordable for many people, especially given the current cost of living crisis.

2. You may be able to access drugs and treatments that aren’t available on the NHS

One of the benefits of private medical insurance is that treatments and drugs could be available through your policy that aren’t available on the NHS. Some treatments may only be offered via private healthcare providers. 

Even when the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) has recommended that the NHS starts using a particular treatment, it may take a long time to become available because of the cost of buying new equipment, for example, or training staff. It may be that the drug is offered in private hospitals before this stage has been completed by the NHS.

3. You can usually access online appointments

If you have private medical insurance, you’ll usually be able to arrange to see a doctor through an online appointment, at a time that suits you. This means any health issues are likely to be addressed more quickly than through the NHS, and if you’re busy, you won’t have to travel to see the doctor in-person.

Many private health insurance policies provide online appointments to speed up the process of speaking to a doctor and, if necessary, getting a specialist referral. You can typically speak to a GP or a specialist through a video call or on the phone if this suits you better.

4. You may be covered for dental and optician appointments

There are all kinds of extras that may be included in a private medical insurance policy. For example, you may get cover for routine dental and optical treatment. This could provide hundreds of pounds towards the cost of glasses or contact lenses, for example, or emergency dental treatment.

Often this cover may be offered as an optional extra under your private health insurance policy, but it’ll usually be cheaper than taking out a standalone dental policy, for example. You can learn more about insurance specifically for dental treatment in our article Do I need dental insurance? 

5. You could get counselling as part of your policy

If you develop a mental health problem after taking out your policy, you may be able to make a claim on your cover for the cost of outpatient mental health treatment, such as counselling.

This includes treatment for conditions such as anxiety, depression, and eating disorders, which are increasingly being covered by private medical insurance. 

You’ll need to check your policy carefully to see what is and isn’t covered. You may, for example, find that only a certain number of outpatient therapy sessions are included in your policy. However, your insurer may provide its own counselling helpline, giving you the chance to talk to a trained counsellor about anything that’s making life a struggle. Depending on your provider, you may have to pay extra for in-patient and day-patient care for mental health issues.

6. You might be eligible for gym discounts and other perks

Some private medical insurance providers offer a range of perks, such as discounts on gym membership.

Vitality is perhaps best known for offering insurance perks. For example, it offers rewards for living a healthier life, such as up to 50% off gym memberships, free Amazon Prime membership, and 50% off trainers at Runners Need. You earn Vitality points to put towards rewards through regular activity. However, plenty of other providers also provide generous discounts, such as AXA Health, which offers up to 40% off gym memberships, so it’s worth comparing several different policies before buying to make sure you find the best one to suit your needs.

Where to buy private medical insurance

You can buy private medical insurance from a health insurance provider directly, or go to an insurance broker who will help you to find the right cover to suit your needs. Read more in our article Do I need private medical insurance? If you’re not sure which policy to go for, or have specific requirements, it may be a good idea to seek professional advice to find the right policy for you.

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