Most people still look to the NHS for all of their healthcare needs, but increased financial strain and pressure from a growing, ageing, population means this approach is becoming more unsustainable.
Furthermore, stress on the NHS is not just limited to treatment waiting times but has now expanded to GP appointments. A recent survey found that the average waiting time for a GP appointment was just under 13 days. For the working population, a delay in seeing a GP means that many will turn up to work while ill, resulting in the rise of ‘presenteeism’, or extended periods off work due to untreated illness.
The increasing strain on our NHS can therefore have implications for many people, especially those unprotected by suitable private medical insurance (PMI) policies. In order to address this issue there needs to be a shift in perceptions whereby people no longer see PMI as a luxury purchase that replaces the NHS, but rather as something to supplement it.
As such, it may be time to reconsider the way that we view health insurance and the role that PMI could play to support public health services. There is no shortage of examples where a culture of private medical insurance exists alongside public healthcare services.
In Germany, for example, the healthcare system includes two different types of insurance; compulsory and private insurance. The compulsory option is based on a concept of a welfare state whereby everyone pays into the system and the amount is determined by individual earnings. However, individuals in certain professions and earning a certain amount can choose to move to private insurance, with premiums based on their age and medical history. Could a similar system that incorporates private PMI work in the UK?
A shift in perceptions
It is obviously still important that the NHS continues to offer free access for the full level of services for the most vulnerable in our society. However, for the great majority of people, incorporating PMI into their healthcare planning would help to ease demand on public healthcare and also give them the option to have their healthcare concerns resolved more quickly. But how can we encourage this shift?
If perceptions are to change around the role of PMI, we need to start by educating the population about the advantages, particularly as the nature of the UK’s workforce changes. More of us are choosing to work longer, and for ourselves, so the effects of suffering from a short term illness and taking time off work can be even greater.
Advisers are in a strong position to change views of the industry. Whether it is making older clients aware of their growing susceptibility to certain conditions, or discussing whether the NHS can meet their future needs, intermediaries can play an important role in challenging any assumptions about PMI and the role it can play in supporting public healthcare.
The preceding article was an opinion piece written by Jonathan Long, CEO of National Friendly. The views expressed within do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Business.
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