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Many years ago when I lived in London a friend suffered a nasty double fracture of their leg, not exactly life threatening but not exactly pain free and as a result then ended up in a London hospital, when I went to visit I was shocked to find that they had spent the first eight hours of their stay on a trolley in a corridor, now it was a Saturday night and very busy but the care they got over the next couple of days was not exactly great either, that Monday I returned to work and signed up for the companies BUPA policy which was at a 50% reduced rate and I have been a customer off and on ever since.
Currently I’m rather fortunate to get BUPA free with my current employer, they see the benefit of reduced time away from the work place saving them the cost of a replacement teacher and I get the benefit of health cover at a vastly reduced rate as the only cost to me is the benefit in kind adjustment to my tax code at my marginal rate of tax. Last year the company scheme was deemed to be a benefit of £480 so I effectively paid tax at my marginal rate on that amount which represents a huge saving on the actual cost. It is not possible to get a cost figure for the actual cover I have from the BUPA website as the company offers four levels of cover in all and you have to apply for a quote for each of them however you are able to reduce the cost of cover by selecting a higher excess, on my particular policy there is no excess so I get the full cost of any treatment paid.
Many people would argue that there is no need for such cover as the NHS is free at the point of consumption, it offers an excellent service and you have already paid for health cover in your taxes to a great extent I would agree with those opinions having been a customer of the NHS on a number of times my personal experience has always been very positive. So why choose BUPA? Well maybe my last two experiences of needing treatment can illustrate this. About six years ago while without health cover I ruptured my Achilles playing squash and was rushed into hospital where I was operated upon, in all I spent three days in hospital on a shared ward and the experience was perfectly acceptable, the only complaint I would have had was on the quality of the food and the fact that I was left for long periods with a lack of nursing cover. When I came out I needed physio after the cast had been removed and when that time came I had to travel to Daventry for it which is a 25 minute drive all because of some arcane NHS structure that made no sense to me. To be treated locally I would have had to go private. I also had to wait six weeks before I could start physio and the sessions were in small groups so you did not get the undivided attention of the physio.
Jump forward to more recently and my experience with BUPA. This time I aggravated an old knee injury while playing hockey. Initially I had physio treatment however over the Christmas period it became apparent that the knee was not improving and the physio referred me back to the consultant. On the Monday I rang BUPA and they issued me with an authorisation code. That same day I rang the consultant and was given an appointment for that evening after work (you see the benefit to my employer) I was booked in for a CAT scan on the Wednesday night, a further consultation on the Thursday night where surgery was recommended and then I had control over when the operation was done which again minimised the time spent off work as I have used this half term to recover. My follow up appointment will be next Monday and I will probably be back with my physio by the end of the week. Now compare that with the weeks you would wait just to see a consultant in the NHS for what is a fairly minor condition i.e. not life threatening, let alone a surgery slot and what have you learnt?
Well I guess first off given my history maybe I should take up less physical sports but also with BUPA you are paying in part for speed of treatment and the fact that you do not have to deal with waiting lists. That for me is the key benefit, life to short not to be in the best possible health and the sooner you get treated the better.
The claim process with BUPA is incredibly simple, I had originally gone to my GP and told him that I was with BUPA, he issued a referral letter and I contacted BUPA immediately by phone, they then issued me with an authorisation code and the phone number of the consultant I needed to see. All the way through the process everything was done by phone with no forms to fill in, all of the bills are settled directly and I get a conformation invoice to show this. At each stage if any new treatment is needed all I do is contact BUPA to discuss it with them and then provided it is covered they will pay the bill and I have found the call centre to be very efficient and helpful especially when it came time to have the operation on my knee.
Funny enough while in hospital, which was only a day surgery, I did not get the private room you are entitled to as the private hospital in Northampton is under going development and hence I was on a shared ward with two other patient however this mattered little to me. It was clean, efficient and one nurse was assigned to the three patients so plenty of attention, plus you got a menu at the start of the day and the food was prepared individually and came hot whenever you wanted it. Personally I was not hungry after the op but you had to eat something before leaving and it was very tasty.
For me having BUPA is a no brainer, I have nothing against the NHS it is just that I appreciate the benefits that cover provides, would I be able to afford it without getting it through my company? Probably not but it is something I would consider. There are various levels of cover and also they have a self pay option for private treatment. My knee problems have probably run up bills close to £6,000 with all the physio treatment that I have had and will have over the next couple of months so self pay in not really an option.
BUPA are the best known of all the health care providers and the only one I have experience of although there are plenty of others out there. Check out the Money Savings Expert website for advice on their relative strengths before taking the plunge as you can save money with some intelligent shopping around. The BUPA website is www.bupa.co.uk.