Is Poor health Making You Poorer?

March 13, 2020
Taryn Lee-Johnston

Although the UK has both a welfare system and free public health care, illness and injury can impact your finances.  While there’s a limit to what you can do to protect yourself from becoming ill or injured, you can certainly have a think about what poor health would mean to you and what steps you could take to protect yourself against its consequences.  Here are some points to consider.

Time off work

This will mean different things to different people, but it will probably have some kind of impact on just about everyone.  For example, it may be obvious that if you’re a freelancer, being unable to work, for any reason, can devastate your finances unless you have rock-solid insurance in place to protect you, but it may be less obvious that even being off work with employment benefits can have an adverse effect on your financial health.  Leaving aside the fact that there may be a cap on how long you can claim these benefits, there’s also the impact of being “out of the loop”.

It’s also worth noting that in this context, the definition of “work” can extend to any essential task which would still need to be performed if the person who currently does it became ill or was injured.  Possibly the most obvious example of this is caring responsibilities, especially child-caring responsibilities.  Because of this, it can be very wise to ensure that people with such responsibilities are protected by insurance in the same way as the main income-earner.

Travel costs

Even assuming you can fit your medical appointments around your work, there may well still be costs involved in getting there and back.  If you take your own car, then you will have to think about fuel and parking.  If you take public transport, then you will have to work around schedules and you may have to take two or more individual trips to reach your destination (for example a train and a bus or two or different buses), which can really add to costs.  If you take a taxi, you can have convenience and you won’t necessarily have to pay for parking (although if your taxi driver has to pay to wait for you somewhere, then this will have to be factored into the fare they charge).

Then you will need to think about your comfort when you are at your appointments, for example eating and drinking.  In principle, you can stock up on food and drink before you leave but in practice are you really going to be that organized, especially if you’re unwell?  Again, this is an area where having the backing of an insurance company can be invaluable.

The actual cost of treatment

Although access to the NHS can be considered one of the major benefits of living in the UK, it has its limitations.  To begin with, not everything is provided completely free to everyone.  For example, you may need to pay for prescriptions or to pay at least a contribution to certain types of dental treatment.  You may also find that treatment which would be beneficial but not essential will not be covered on the NHS and/or that there is a lengthy wait to access the treatment you need.  You could potentially avoid all of the above by going private, but this could be expensive.  Depending on your needs and wants, you might be able to pay for treatment by raiding your savings, but if you’d prefer to avoid being in this situation, then it’s advisable to be prepared with good medical and/or dental insurance.  This can save you from having to go to the effort of fundraising for the treatment you need in the timeframe you’d prefer.


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