Health Insurance

Best Ways To Get Affordable Health Insurance In Belfast

Belfast, the capital city of Northern Ireland, is a fascinating city with great iconic histories and amazing views. To add to that, Belfast has a low cost of living, (actually, the lowest in the UK) well below the national average.

As a resident in Belfast, you might want to secure your health against events of crises like unexpected illnesses. Health insurance provides a cover for you and your family as it pays most and in some cases all of your medical costs.

Searching for the best health policies with the best rates might be a little tricky but that’s why we are here to guide you through the process.

There are several ways you can have coverage in Belfast. Your employer is one. Some employers in Belfast offer health insurance coverage to their workers as part of their benefits. But it is important to know that it is not mandatory for employers to offer insurance. 

If you are not covered by your employer, you can either access healthcare through the public healthcare system or through private health insurance providers in Belfast. 

Both public and private health services have pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages. Below we’ve provided some details on what each healthcare system entails.

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Public Health Service In Belfast

In Belfast, likewise in other cities in the United Kingdom, public health insurance is provided by the NHS( National Health System). 

Launched in July 1948, the NHS was designed to provide free healthcare services to everyone in spite of their residential status. It is renowned for being the first healthcare system to be funded by taxation instead of insurance and provides free healthcare at the point of use. 

The NHS was found to be the best, cheapest, and most affordable in an analysis of healthcare systems carried out by the Commonwealth Fund Health Thinktank although it is usually criticized for its long waiting times, increasing staff, and shortage of supplies.

All residents in Belfast are entitled to receive NHS care, but you can decide to purchase private health policies or use a combination of both.

What Does Public Healthcare Cover?

Public healthcare covers all primary healthcare services and everyone is entitled to it including non-residents, provided they didn’t travel specifically to receive free treatment. 

While everyone is entitled to primary health care ( e.g consultations), you need to be registered as an NHS patient to be able to access secondary health care services (e.g specialists.)

The NHS is very broad and forasmuch as you are a resident in Belfast( living lawfully, settled, and voluntarily) you are entitled to the following benefits or coverage;

  1. Consultations with your GP and nurse: Your GP is your main contact for health-related matters and if you require more specific care, he will refer you to a specialist.
  2.  Treatments for minor injuries at clinics
  3. Accident and emergency treatments
  4. Maternity services
  5. Treatment with a specialist when referred by a GP 
  6. Sexual health services and contraception

What Does The NHS Not Cover?

While the National Health System provides a vast coverage of healthcare services for people living in Belfast, there are some services you would be required to pay for. They include:

  1. Prescriptions
  2. Eye care treatment
  3. Dental care treatment
  4. Wigs and fabric support

Healthcare Costs

Although prescriptions are paid under the NHS, they have a fixed price regardless of the type and quantity of medication needed for treatment. The current charge for prescription is 9 GBP(111.50 USD) per item.

Pharmacies are called chemists in Belfast where you can easily get your medicines over the counter. Although all Belfast residents are entitled to hospital treatment, if it’s not an emergency, then your GP must refer you.

Once you are registered with a General Practitioner, you will be able to book appointments/consultations for free. It is unlikely to get a same-day appointment. You can book your appointments in three ways:

  • online
  • via phone
  • scheduling an appointment at a reception in person

 Other Health Services

Even though your GP will be your first port of contact for medical matters, you may not necessarily need to visit the doctor for minor health conditions. Some health services available in the UK do not require an appointment and can be helpful to you.

  • Pharmacists are trained medical professionals, qualified to give advice on minor conditions that do not require a prescription (for example; stomach aches, sore throats, minor burns).

  • In the case of an urgent medical issue that is not life-threatening, call NHS 111, where you will be able to speak to a trained adviser who will instruct you on what to do next.

  • If you visit and answer questions about your symptoms online, you will be advised on an appropriate course of action, depending on your circumstances.

  • Sexual health services, as well as contraception, are free and available to everyone. You do not need to be registered for a GP or give any information if you do not wish to. You can visit any sexual health center to get tested for sexually transmitted infections and/or for contraception advice.

Even though the free health system(NHS) of the UK is considered one of the best in the world, it faces a lot of challenges mainly due to underfunding.

Private Health Insurance

Private health insurance, although more expensive, provides better services than public healthcare. You get access to better infrastructure, shorter waiting times and you get more control over your medical treatments. 

If you weren’t offered health insurance by your employer and you want more than the public health system offers, you can buy a private plan if you can afford it.

Many residents often make use of the public health care system, but if you choose to get treated privately without having private insurance, it can be really expensive, especially for serious cases.

Residents in Belfast usually only have private health insurance for the following reasons:

  • They want to avoid long waiting times
  • Their company/employer provides it as part of an employment package;
  • They want to have more control over the medical treatments they receive.

Private healthcare insurance has some great benefits:

  1. No waiting lists
  2. faster access to diagnosis and treatment
  3. Private health insurance takes the pressure that comes with the NHS while offering you peace of mind
  4. Flexibility to choose the consultant you want 
  5. Gives you the ability to choose the hospital convenient for you 

Factors That Affect Premiums On Private Health Insurance

The premiums you pay on health insurance can be affected by some factors. They include;

  1. Age
  2. Postcode
  3. Current or pre-existing medical condition
  4. Chosen benefits
  5. Lifestyle behaviors like smoking, alcohol consumption

Average Cost Of Health Insurance

Most private health policies do not include maternity services, emergency care, mental health, and general practice. Healthcare providers base their premiums on the claims made by certain people which are commonly influenced by their place of residency and age. 

On average, the price premium for health insurance is 1,450 GBP per year which is about 1,900 USD. However, your actual price depends on the factors mentioned earlier.

Types Of Health Insurance Plans

There are two types of medical insurance, majorly:

  • Moratorium

Moratoriums do not include most pre-existing medical conditions that you have suffered from in the past five years.

  • Full Medical Underwriting(FMU)

This plan type also excludes any medical conditions you have suffered from in the last five years. But, your insurer may start covering you for that condition after 2 years on the policy.

Private Health Insurance Costs

Below are some rough estimates, averages, and ranges, of costs of private treatments;

  • Consultations: Around 200 GBP (250 USD)
  • Surgical procedures: within the range of  GBP 1,000 (1,300 USD) to 10,000 (13,000 USD)

Private Health Insurance Providers

Some major health insurance providers widely used in the UK are;

  • Allianz Care
  • BUPA Global
  • Cigna Global

You can find some comparison sites online to help you make informed decisions. Good luck!

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