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Getting older is an expensive luxury. Your eyesight may begin to fail, or teeth which nature designed for a lifespan of 40 years and a diet low in sugar begin to rot.
If you do not qualify for free dental treatment, NHS work can cost up to £300 a time. If you go private, (and you may not have a choice in many areas) there is no limit to the cost.
So, how do you deal with the various medical bills that our not so free healthcare systems dish up? Well, through my employer (although available generally too), I pay a monthly premium to the Westfield Healthcare scheme who gives me money when I get a bill!
Sounds too good to be true! Well, it has worked for me so far and I am currently running at a small profit too!
So, who is Westfield? Well, a non profit making organisation based in Sheffield who basically provide you with financial assistance should a number of medical situations arise. I will detail examples of the cover later. An insured situation arises (eg you get a dental bill), you pay the bill and send off the receipt for payment, and within 5 working days, you get your money back! Simple, straight forward and cost efficient.
While the accounts of Westfield suggest that around 20% of your premium covers administrative costs, the other 80% is returned to cover members bills. This is significantly more than any profit making insurance company will return in claims payouts!
Now, full details of the available levels of cover (which vary) can be found by ringing them on 0114 250 2000, emailing them Enquiries@westfield-health.co.uk or checking out the website at www.westfieldhealth.com. I am going to tell you what I pay and what I am covered for. You can choose to pay a little more or a little less. The more you pay, the better the cover you get.
Okay, here we go with the headlines!
I pay £16 a month by direct debit for cover. For those without a calculator that is £192 a year. I can claim, with little exclusion, for the following:
(Please note that payouts for dependant children and stepchildren are in addition to cover for the adult, where child cover is available)
Dental costs for children or myself: £145 per year Optical costs for children or myself: £200 per two years In patient grant (per night): £52 adult / £26 child Day surgery grant: £52 adult / £26 child Travel to NHS hospital (per day for out-patient treatment): £14.50 Recuperation Grant: £375 per two years (£190 child) Maternity Grant: £300 per child born/adopted (no claims in first 10 months of policy allowed) per year Consultation where referred by GP: £210 a year Physiotherapy, Acupuncture, Osteopathy, Chiropractic: £480 a year in total Homeopathy: £160 per year Chiropody: £160 per year Home Help: £675 per year (including costs for dependant adults and children!) Surgical Appliance: £275 per year Health Screening: £140 per year Accidental Death Benefit: £15,000 Permanent disability: £15,000
Oh, and I can also get £140 to have a full medical check up each year! No questions asked!! There are also no exclusions for pre existing conditions except for the maternity grant!
So, for my premiums, I get a whole host of possible benefits. Now for me, the main reason for buying this plan was to spread the cost of dental and optical costs. I felt that over a two-year period, I could expect costs to exceed £350 anyway, so I was effectively only paying £34 (£17 per year) for all the other benefits on offer. While none of the benefits make you rich, I felt it was certainly a price worth paying to ensure that traumatic health events that hit my family are made easier. You can also pay a lower or higher premium for different levels of cover.
There are ways of maximising your payouts. For example, many employers will provide you with a free eye test if you use a computer screen to do some or all of your work. This means you can spend the whole £200 grant on glasses or contacts! I wandered down to Specsavers and bought some very posh glasses with all the various anti-scratch coatings on a buy one get one free offer. This allowed me to get prescription sunglasses too. I paid a total of £180 and my bank account was credited with the full amount by Westfield today!
Many people are members of healthcare schemes such as BUPA. These invariably have large excesses of, perhaps, £200 per year. The consultation grant can cover the cost of this excess for you, while BUPA can pay the balance!
You may think you never intend to use acupuncture. It is, however, a popular medical treatment and has been used by thousands as a way of giving up smoking! You do need to have been referred by a doctor and whoever treats you needs to be a member of an appropriate professional body. This could be the catalyst you need to give up the evil weed!
If you are planning a family, but not within the next 10 months, this plan is excellent. If both Mum to be and Dad to be join the scheme, both can claim for the same birth. So, you get £600! Triplets and you will benefit to the tune of £1800!!! Now, I know this does not cover the next twenty-five years of extraordinary expense, but alongside all the other benefits of the plan, this little wedge of cash will help towards that posh car seat she wanted from Mothercare!!
Are there any catches? Well, I am yet to find any. The clauses and restrictions to treatment are well worded in the back of the booklet supplied and, to be honest, few. There is a 3-month exclusion period from the start of the policy to the first claim (this can be 6 months for cheaper levels of cover) and I have already mentioned the very logical 10-month maternity exclusion.
If you usually have to have work done by your dentist, need assistance with you eye sight, or simply encounter health issues that leave you needing above average healthcare support, Westfield is excellent.
Even if your dental and optical costs are usually negligent, cover for the unexpected, for a modest premium, should not necessarily be ignored. You simply do not know when something unfortunate may happen to you.
I have been impressed with their price and cover. Impressed with the speed of claims settlement (£325 so far for £80 of contributions!). They have also been supportive and helpful in the two telephone conversations I have had.
I cannot fault the scheme. See if your employer offers the same or check out the details at the contact points above. Above all, do not forget to claim what you are entitled to!
Great review. We've been members for almost 15 years and it's been a real boon, not only for ourselves but for the kids too. We've certainly had our money's worth out of it.
tine 01.04.2003 20:59
I've recently been looking into private health cover. There are just so many to choose from.
ariadne 31.03.2003 18:41
Customer service does sound good, and the premiums sound reasonable. However I would be interested to know if *disposable* (daily/monthly) contact lens are covered – these types of plans normally only pay out for permanent contact lens. x