New-style low-cost health cover launched for public sector workers

New-style low-cost health cover launched for public sector workers

A new low-cost health insurance product has been launched that aims to bridge the gap between NHS care and private medical insurance, offering cover for most conditions, but with payouts capped at £15,000 a year.

HealthBridge, launched by civil service and public sector insurer CS Healthcare (CSH), covers the treatment of all conditions except cancer and heart problems (though policyholders will be able to use the policy to pay for testing and diagnosis in those two areas).

The product launch comes on the back of research conducted by CSH that indicates 23% of public sector workers want private medial insurance (PMI) but cannot afford it.

It also comes against a backdrop of the 10m over-65s that existed in 2010 mushrooming to 15.5m by 2030 and to 19m by 2050. Moreover, full private medical insurance is becoming so expensive that the number of people taking out full cover is falling, putting additional pressure on the NHS.

A family of four (including two 35-year-olds with two children under 12) living in the South West, Midlands or Wales would pay £56.66 a month for HealthBridge - compared to £180 a month for CSH's own full PMI.

Similarly, a couple both aged 60 living in the north of England, Scotland or Northern Ireland would pay £96.54 a month for HealthBridge, compared to £328.16 for CSH's PMI cover.

However, HealthBridge comes with caps on payouts. The total it will pay in one year is £15,000, which may not cover everyone's 'care journey', given the average cost of endoscopy is £1,700, ultrasound is £200, a PET scan can be £2,400 and, say, hip replacement surgery is £12,500.

However, CSH says it will give customers a choice of three hospitals with a range of fees at which to seek treatment, meaning some customers will be able to source cheaper treatment.

There is also a £1,000 cap on what CSH will pay out for consultations under the new plan, and there are also annual caps on the amount it will pay on certain recovery and support treatments: such as £500 for psychiatric and counselling treatments, and £350 for manipulative therapies.

Policyholders must also contribute 15% of the cost of their treatment to an annual limit of £250; while the plan is only open to customers aged between 18 and 64 years and 11 months, although CSH says it is committed to continuing cover for existing customers as they age without raising premiums too quickly.

A spokesman for CSH says HealthBridge "sets a new benchmark for lower-cost PMI plans".

Mark Rothery, chief executive of CSH, added: "The cost of comprehensive private health insurance continues to rise. The introduction of HealthBridge means we can cater for a broader range of needs and budgets, providing quality cover for those at different life stages. The plan delivers quality cover at a premium which is within [everyone's] reach."

CS Healthcare insures about 30,000 people at present and is looking to add up to 3,000 HealthBridge customers by the end of next year.

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