In these economically poor times when many are looking for ways to reign in their budget, health insurance has fast become a casualty of money saving times.
With an extremely efficient free medical service in this country, many are considering private health insurance as an unnecessary extravagance and are abandoning their policies.
Experts advise that while the NHS is a lifeline for many and does provide a comprehensive service that instead of ditching medical insurance altogether, we shop around for alternative, cheaper plans.
In the past, many chose private health insurance as the waiting times on the NHS were outrageously lengthy for minor investigations.
However, over the past ten years this has changed dramatically and the NHS can now guarantee that at least nine patients out of ten living in England will be seen and treated within a maximum of 18 weeks for a range of non-emergency treatments for problems such as cataracts, arthritic hips and hernias.
This was a goal which was set in the 2004 NHS Improvement Plan, and one the service looks set to achieve (the situation is different in Scotland and Wales, although it is hoped that both will follow suit over the next few years).
For emergency treatment the NHS is far preferable to private practices having a far wider range of equipment such as ambulances and staff at their fngertips than private health workers have.
So where does the benefit of private health insurance lie? For many these days it is seen as a safer option in light of the MRSA and other hospital superbug scares.
Private hospitals throughout the UK have managed to control hospital-acquired infections much more efficiently than those in the NHS and many remain MRSA-free.
Consequently, the main reason which private patients cite for choosing private healthcare is a fear of contracting MRSA in an NHS run hospital.
However, the threat posed by a stay in your local district general is minimal compared to the recent hype which implies that it is almost a guarantee!
An otherwise healthy patient admitted for a planned operation in a decent NHS hospital would have to be on the ward for around 15 years to stand a more than evens chance of succumbing to MRSA.
Others choose private healthcare as they will have more time to spend with consultants and can enjoy their hospital stay in relative luxury with better food and a private bathroom.
In order to maintain a balance and beat the credit crunch while getting the best of both worlds, some suggest choosing a private health policy which solely reflects personal requirements from private care.
There are many options out there, such as Axa’s Retirement Essentials covers treatment for key conditions that commonly affect older people – heart and eye problems, joint replacements and hernia repairs – at around half the price of a normal policy.
Also, Bupa offer a policy called Select Heart and Cancer Policy, which just covers the UK’s two biggest killers for a similar reduction. And most providers will offer reduced premiums in exchange for an ‘excess’, such as claiming only for problems that can’t be dealt with by the NHS within six weeks.