Whether you’re new to the healthcare system in the UK or a long-term user, understanding the costs associated with healthcare can be a challenge. Between the cost of a visit to a GP, the prescription charges, and the cost of seeing a specialist, the cost of healthcare in the UK can add up quickly.
However, with the right knowledge and planning, navigating healthcare costs can be done in a responsible and financially-sound way. In this article, we’ll provide several tips to help you budget for healthcare costs in the UK.
Research Your Insurance Coverage
The first step to budgeting for healthcare costs is to understand what type of health insurance coverage you have. Depending on where you live in the UK, you will have access to different levels of coverage. Some health plans may cover the cost of a visit to a GP or specialist, while others may require you to pay a co-payment or include only limited coverage. It's important to research the coverage of your health plan before making any decisions about healthcare costs.
If you're covered by the National Health Service, you may be entitled to free health care under certain circumstances. You may also be informed of any charges that you’ll be required to pay.
Minimise Your Visits
It’s important to think carefully before making any visits to a GP or specialist. Although medical appointments are important, they can quickly become expensive. Consider if you are truly in need of medical care, or if your symptoms could be managed without a visit.
For example, if you are experiencing a minor cold, it may be better to manage your symptoms at home instead of making an appointment with a doctor. However, in the case of an urgent health emergency, it is important to seek medical attention.
Make Use of Free Healthcare Services
In the UK, there are a variety of free healthcare services available to those in need. Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to access free health care services, including:
- GPs and specialists
- Mental health services
- Family planning services
- Sexual health services
These services are available to those who meet the eligible criteria as set out by the National Health Service (NHS). It’s important to check with your local NHS for details, as the specific eligibility criteria can vary from region to region.
Understand the Cost of Non-NHS Services
The NHS provides a range of services for free or at a reduced cost. However, there are also a range of services that are not covered by NHS and may require you to pay a fee. These services can include:
- Private GP services
- Private mental health services
- Private dentistry services
- Cosmetic procedures
Before making any decisions about accessing non-NHS services, it is important to understand the cost. If you want to access a non-NHS service, make sure to research the cost beforehand and ensure that you can afford it.
Be Smart about Prescription Costs
If you are prescribed medications, it’s important to consider the cost associated with them. Depending on the medication, you may need to pay for the cost upfront or contribute to the cost of the prescription. For example, most medications in the UK will require you to pay the standard prescription charge of £9.15 per item. You can also apply for a Prescription Prepayment Certificate (PPC) to save money on prescription charges.
For some people, it may be more cost effective to purchase a generic version of a medication. Your local pharmacist can help you identify any generic alternatives to your medication. Additionally, you can inquire about any discounts or coupons that may be available to reduce the cost of medication.
Consider Government Subsidies
In some cases, you may be eligible for financial assistance to help cover healthcare costs. Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to access government subsidies or programs such as:
- Child Health Passport Scheme
- Helping Children With Autism Credit
- Disability Living Allowance
These government subsidies can help reduce the cost of accessing healthcare, so it’s worth researching if you may be eligible.
Apply for an NHS Low Income Scheme
If you are struggling to cover the costs of healthcare, you may be eligible for an NHS Low Income Scheme. This scheme can provide assistance with the cost of healthcare to individuals who have difficulty paying for it. To find out whether you are eligible and to apply, contact your local NHS department.
Prepare for Unexpected Costs
No matter how carefully you budget for healthcare costs, there is always the possibility of unexpected costs. To prepare for these potential expenses, it’s important to create an emergency fund that can be used to cover the cost of unexpected medical bills. This will save you from having to incur costly debt or having to forgo treatments that you may need.
Additionally, if you have access to a workplace benefits package, consider adding an add-on to your health insurance plan for additional coverage. This may help reduce the cost of any unexpected healthcare expenses.