More Turn to Cash Plans to Help Foot Medical Bills; Recent Surveys Show That Many People Now Have a Foot in Both Camps, to Protect Themselves in Every Possible Way

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Byline: Peter Axon

There are times when we could all do with some helping in paying for those routine visits to the dentist or optician or expenses associated with an unexpected stay in hospital and after care.

Less than 25 per cent of dentists now accept new National Health Service patients, and even existing NHS patients may have to fork out 80 per cent of their bill. Routine sight tests and new glasses are becoming more expensive - the average pair of spectacles now costs pounds 114.

In addition, recent research reveals as many as a fifth of Britons are put off medical check-ups because of exorbitant charges.

It's against this discouraging background that an increasing number of people are getting round the problem by taking out a cash plan, as an affordable way to meet bills for all their health concerns.

Cash plans are significantly cheaper than private medical insurance (PMI) with premiums as low as pounds 1.80 a week.

They are also simpler to understand and possess an easier claims procedure than PMI cover. It's therefore hardly surprising that nearly seven million people have turned to health cash plans to help foot medical costs.

For the majority of people, escalating PMI costs make this type of cover a huge financial burden, whereas a cash plan is often regarded as 'preventative cover,' as it makes families more likely to visit the dentist and optician on a regular basis.

If the Government's injection of cash really does deliver radical improvements in the NHS, it should reduce the need for private provision. But, whatever the outcome, it must be realised there are still some sectors of routine healthcare, including dentistry and optical services, which are not covered by PMI schemes.

In general terms, the two types of plan offer an entirely different set of benefits.

PMI will cater for private treatment of short-term or curable conditions and is directed towards those seeking instant care, without the hassle and indignity of joining an NHS waiting list. These policies primarily encompass specialists' fees, hospital accommodation and nursing charges.

On the other hand, cash plans are specifically geared to cover the expenses of daily requirements, besides providing grants for those in need of benefits when in hospital. They also differ from PMI in that most firms will readily accept anyone as a cash-plan customer (or policy member), including those who possess long-term health problems.

Recent surveys show that many people now have a foot in both camps, to protect themselves in every possible way. …