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BUPA 'forcing patients to use cheaper doctors' (UK)

Discussion in 'LIBRARY General Topics' started by Josephine, Jul 29, 2017.

  1. Josephine

    Josephine FORUM ADMIN, NURSE DIRECTOR Administrator
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    MAILOnline PUBLISHED: 01:44, 8 January 2013

    Britains's largest medical insurer Bupa is forcing customers to use cut-price consultants, it is claimed. Restrictions brought in by the private health firm and being considered by other insurers mean patients can see only physicians on an approved list who charge lower rates. Nine out of ten consultants say the list gives patients less or no choice and they could get worse treatment as a result.

    According to a top QC. Barrister Tom Weitzman, a specialist on insurance law, said the company must ensure its ‘approved’ consultants had specialist skills. If a patient is injured because the doctor did not have ‘requisite skills’ for the treatment, Bupa ‘will be liable,’ he said.

    Typically, patients with private cover who want to see a consultant visit their GP for a referral, but caps on the cost may result in them paying top-ups. But BUPA has removed some experienced – and expensive – consultants from its approved list, with members no longer able to see them even if they pay the shortfall.

    It has also slashed the amount it will pay for common procedures, from hip replacements to hysterectomies, by between 4% and 63%. A survey by GfK NOP (national opinion poll) on behalf of medical insurer WPA – which also commissioned Mr Weitzman’s opinion – shows 96 per cent of consultants believe an approved list means patients have no choice or less choice than at present. And 87% of the 1,000 surveyed believe patients would get worse or less effective treatment by using the approved list.

    Premiums across all private medical insurers have jumped 52% in the past decade to an average of £1,070 a year, according to analysts Laing & Buisson. The Private Patients’ Forum said: ‘Discovering your cover does not extend to things you believed were entitlements is dreadful, especially when this news arrives when you have had an unwelcome diagnosis.’ Industry estimates say Bupa has lost 200,000 policyholders since thechanges came in last year. One consultant in the WPA survey said: ‘Some private insurers – in particular BUPA – want to treat their customers like second-class NHS patients.’

    Julian Stainton, chief executive of WPA, said patients and consultants were clearly against approved lists. He added: ‘We are never going down this road. Patients pay for private health insurance out of taxed income. If they don’t get consultant choice, what is the point?’
    Dr Katrina Herren, medical director at BUPA Health and Wellbeing, said there are more than 10,000 consultants on its open referral list, and members get a choice of two or more.
    She added: ‘When surveyed, 90% of our Open Referral customers said that they were happy with the service.’
     

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