Health insurance in the UK is often criticized from abroad, due to its dysfunctions. And, seen from other countries, it seems less efficient than their own Social Security. However, the English are very attached to it.
Let’s see how the public system works and its advantages and disadvantages. We are going to compare it with private health insurance in the UK, to see which one offers better coverage.
The NHS, the Public Health Insurance in the UK
Principles and Functioning of This Health Insurance in England
The public health insurance in the UK is called National Health Service (NHS).
It is open to all residents and allows access to many free services in public establishments. It offers attention from approved professionals (general practitioner and specialist consultations, hospitalization in a shared room…)
The NHS does not only manage medical insurance in England. It also covers unemployment, retirement, accidents at work, and disability.
To benefit from it, you have to register with your local insurance fund. The fees are deducted monthly from your salary.
Defects of the Public Health Insurance in the UK
This health insurance in England is often criticized for many reasons.
Some treatments are not covered or are reimbursed only at a small fraction. For example, optical, dental, or pharmacy services. In this last one, the insured has to pay a lump sum of about 7 pounds per medicine.
It is compulsory to consult a general practitioner before getting access to a specialist (including pediatrics and gynecology). And any consultation with a private professional will not be reimbursed.
Doctors in public practice are as well-trained as those in private practice. But it is often difficult to find an accredited specialist in the NHS network.
Due to the lack of overall investment in health insurance in the UK, consultations are often short. Waiting times are very long (especially for surgery or specialties). Besides this, quality and access to care are inconsistent across the country.
Private Health Insurance in the UK
Why Take Out Private Health Insurance in England?
For short stays, it is possible to use your EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) if you are from a European country. You will be able to benefit from the same coverage as those who pay into the British health system. But this is a temporary and limited solution.
Due to its shortcomings, the NHS is very insufficient to cover the health of expatriates. Most of them look for private health insurance in England. Is the only way to receive care more quickly, and to benefit from greater freedom of choice of practitioners.
Health care out of the public network is very expensive (from 100 to 300 pounds for a consultation). It’s often inaccessible without good private insurance.
How to Choose Your Health Insurance in the UK?
Taking out medical insurance with a private company allows you to be reimbursed for your expenses in the private sector. And to benefit from certain advantages depending on the contract, such as the waiver of advance payment in case of hospitalization in a partner establishment.
It is essential that the contract taken out covers at least hospitalization and basic medical expenses.
It is often recommended taking out an international policy with a company from your home country, rather than a local one, This allows you to choose your currency (pound, euro, or dollar), to manage your policy in English.
And also to be covered for all your travels outside the UK, including the stays in your home country.
Which Is the Best Health Insurance for England?
Insurance “From the 1st Pound/Dollar”: Competitive and Flexible
Experienced travelers and expatriates often recommend the type of policy called “1st euro” or “1st pound”. This kind of private health insurance in the UK is particularly competitive. It can be adapted to all needs and situations thanks to a wide range of formulas and optional benefits.
Also, it reimburses health expenses at the real cost, from the first pound spent.
However, a medical questionnaire is compulsory at the time of enrollment. Depending on the personal condition of the insured, it may lead to an increase in the cost or to exclusions from coverage.
However, in many cases, these contracts offer very good value for money.
Social Security as Health Insurance in the UK
If your country offers Social Security to expats, it might be another solution for health insurance in the UK.
It can be interesting for people suffering from chronic illnesses. Or if they have pre-existing medical conditions. Unlike private insurers, Social Security does not require the completion of a health questionnaire. Its rates are also attractive for young members.
However, Social Security is not sufficient as medical insurance in England. The reimbursement ceilings will probably be identical to those of the public health system in your home country. While consultation fees are much higher in the United Kingdom.
In order not to be left with a considerable out-of-pocket expense, a Social Security member must also subscribe to a supplementary policy. The overall cost of your insurance will increase, but it is the only solution to get a satisfactory coverage as a Social Security affiliate.