Insurance: Private medicine loses its appeal

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The Independent Online
The lure of private medicine has lost its lustre, according to the latest figures. Despite the booming economy, the better-off are refusing to use their wealth to pay for medical insurance that guarantees them privacy, a choice of menu and a chat with the consultant when they are ill.

The number of people covered by private medical insurance, at almost 6.4 million, is lower than it was six years ago, at the start of the recession, according to Laing's Review of Private Health Care 1997, published today. Although the drop of 200,000 since 1990 is attributed to a change in the way the figures are counted, the report says that "no significant volume growth has taken place" over the past six years.

A key reason is the sharp rise in premiums, up 7.4 per cent last year and up 58 per cent since 1990 to an average pounds 553 per subscriber in 1996. People who have private cover are using it more and appear to be keeping new subscribers out of the market by driving up premiums.