The Self-employed are the powerhouse of the UK economy. The entrepreneurial spirit of the close to four million Britons who work for themselves is what´s made us one of the most successful economies in the world. While there are obvious advantages to being self-employed, such self-reliance comes at a cost. Bluntly, if you don´t work, you don´t earn.
There will be no employer paying you when you take ´duvet days´ or more seriously when you are off work for a long time due to illness. And, apart from that, who is going to mind the shop when you are off? If you can´t mind your business because you are too ill to work, your customers are going to go elsewhere. So it´s easy to reach the opinion that when you work for yourself, you can´t afford to be sick. Yet it´s going to happen to you at some point. Most of us will at some time suffer a condition debilitating enough to demand we stay off work. And while our National Health Service does the best it can with limited resources, it´s not geared up to the needs of the self-employed.
Waiting times to see a doctor are lengthening - 70% of GPs surveyed for the Royal College of General Practitioners said patients will have to wait longer to see them over the next two years*. And if you’re referred to a specialist by your GP there will be more waiting. Figures from the NHS** found that average wait to be referred for inpatient treatment was 8.7 weeks with 91.7% being seen within 18 weeks. Waiting more than four months to see a specialist is the last thing a self-employed person needs: your condition could mean you are unable to work at your full capacity and hence your income could be affected. And of course you won´t be able to pick and choose your appointment times or will have much choice over where you go for treatment. If you´re self-employed it´s impossible to make your work fit round hospital treatment - yet that´s what you´ll have to do if you rely on the NHS.
That´s why health cover is a necessity for many of the self-employed. And, for once, you´ll be rewarded for your hard work. Health insurers like the self-employed because their self-reliance means they are less likely to claim than employees. As such, they may pay lower premiums. But health insurance is a minefield - whereas there used to be one type of Policy to fit all, today you can get a plan that suits your needs.
This guide will explain what´s on offer and how the self-employed can find the right kind of medical insurance plan for their needs. But first, we look at what the problems are with our National Health Service and why it seems to be failing the needs of Britain´s self-employed.
* Royal College of General Practitioners
** Statistical press notice June 20th 2013 Waiting times data to April 2013
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