Taking out private healthcare will cover the costs of private medical treatments.Get Quote
Is Health Insurance Right for You?
In the UK, the National Health Service (NHS) will provide support and treatment for everyone, but some people decide to go for private health insurance to receive more personalised medical care treatment to benefit from a number of advantages. Find out if health insurance is right for you using our honest guide.Get Started
What is health insurance?
Health insurance - also known as private medical insurance (PMI) - is cover that helps pay the cost of private medical treatment. In the UK this type of insurance acts as supplementary to the NHS rather than as a replacement for it.
Health insurance is useful for keeping waiting times down for treatment, having access to the services of private hospitals, and having more choice with your treatment options. Some essential services such as emergency care are handled by the NHS, but many aspects of treatment can be sped up or improved through private medical insurance.
Recent reports show that more people are now taking out health cover, either individually or through company schemes. To find out if health insurance is right for you, we’ve collected everything you need to know right here.
What does it cover?
Health cover will cover your medical expenses in certain circumstances outlined in your policy. As with any other type of insurance, exactly what is covered depends heavily on the policy you take out, and it’s important to understand exactly what you’re insured against when considering private medical insurance.
Typically a standard health insurance policy will cover in-patient costs such as any tests you need, surgery, and the cost of any medicine you require. This will often come with additional conditions such as having to receive treatment in specific hospitals.
Alternatively, you could opt for a more complete policy that also covers extras such as various out-patient treatments and extra coverage for things such as physiotherapy and dental care.
Health insurance is designed predominantly for short-term curable conditions, and if you want coverage for more serious conditions such as cancer then you usually have to take out specific policies.
What doesn’t it cover?
Expect to see a list of exclusions on any health insurance quote you receive. These will include issues such as pre-existing medical conditions, chronic illnesses and normal pregnancy-related treatment.
You also won’t be covered under regular health cover for cosmetic procedures that you choose to improve your appearance, and if you carry out dangerous sports or activities, then these are likely to be excluded as well.
Typically you will find that the following things are not covered except in tailored private medical insurance policies:
- Pre-existing conditions
- Chronic illnesses
- Pregnancy and childbirth
- Emergency treatment
- Cosmetic surgery
- Organ transplants
How much does a health insurance policy cost?
Each insurance policy varies in price according to the amount of cover selected, and this is especially true when it comes to health insurance. The average policy in the UK costs £1,435 per year (just under £120 a month), but this figure is mainly due to policies being considerably more expensive as you get older. For instance, if you’re younger, healthy, and are taking out a basic policy, it’s much more likely your policy will cost £100s, rather than £1000s a year.
This means it’s almost impossible to give an accurate estimation of how much your policy will cost. However, while providing an indication of the precise cost of health insurance policies is difficult, here is a list of factors that will affect the price of your policy:
- Age. Health insurance premiums rise significantly as you get older because you are more likely to make a claim.
- Medical history. A complicated medical history or any pre-existing conditions are likely to lead to higher premiums.
- Family medical history. Just as with your own health, if your family history shows a predisposition to certain illnesses the price of your policy will increase.
- Lifestyle. Being fit and active is a good way to keep your insurance costs down, and some insurers even offer discounts for keeping in good shape and going to the gym.
- Smoking. If you smoke, your premiums will be considerably more than if you’re a non-smoker. This includes vaping, as the information required by health insurance companies usually regards nicotine consumption.
- Level of cover/what is covered. If you want to be covered for certain complicated conditions such as cancer, this will lead to an increase in the cost of your policy.
Is there an age limit to taking out private medical insurance?
With many health insurance companies, there is no upper age limit to taking out a health cover policy, but the older you are the more your cover will cost. Some companies do impose age restrictions on their policies, with the upper limit usually being set between 65 and 75 if this is the case. But as people are staying healthier for longer it is possible to find an insurer at any age.
What are the pros and cons of private medical insurance?
The main benefits of private health cover are the quality of the medical care and the speed of the service you will receive upon claiming. You will also stay in a private room if admitted to hospital, have easier access to some specialists who have long waiting lists such as physiotherapists and mental health treatment, and get more choice over your medical care.
The limitations of private medical insurance mainly revolve around the restrictions in each policy, especially how difficult it is to get covered for complex or pre-existing conditions and cover relating to pregnancy. Added to this there is the fact that the choice you get in treatment options can be limited to certain hospitals or doctors, and your insurance may not always cover the cost of some treatments in full.
- Shorter wait times
- Easier to get scans and tests
- Private rooms
- Choice of treatment options
- Access to specialists hard to see through NHS
- Specialist drugs and treatments might be available
- Still have to use the NHS for emergency care
- Often excludes complex conditions and pregnancy
- Can cost a lot for comprehensive coverage
- Treatment options often limited to specific hospitals
- Cover won’t always cover costs in full
- It’s expensive, and costs rise as you get older
What types of health insurance policy are available?
The differences between the types of health cover you can take out are based on how the policies are underwritten, which affects the amount of information you need to provide. With some policies you’ll need to provide extensive medical information and the insurer will work out from that what they can cover you for, and with others you’ll get insurance faster but any pre-existing conditions will be automatically excluded. Policies come in these varieties:
Full medical cover
This type of health insurance will give you more comprehensive coverage, but it will be more expensive and require you to provide a lot more information. For full medical cover the insurer will usually require your full medical records, which they will then use to create a policy tailored for you - often specifying any pre-existing conditions they will not insure your for.
With moratorium cover there is less information required when taking out a policy, and monthly premiums will be lower than with full medical cover. Your medical history will be assessed when you actually make a claim, and cover will generally exclude treatment for any illnesses you have had within the past 5 years.
It’s common for insurers to offer a range of policies that are tailored for specific needs and conditions. For instance, you can find health insurance designed to cover cancer, dental or optician costs, or pregnancy. These policies will be underwritten in one of the ways above, and the coverage and cost of each plan will vary considerably.
Can I get health insurance through my job?
Some employers offer health cover as a benefit to their employees. These policies will often be cash plans, which offer a certain amount towards individual types of treatment (such as £300 a year towards opticians costs, £500 towards dentists fees etc.), but there are also company policies that offer comprehensive health cover to their staff. If you’re unsure whether it is possible to get insured through your employer, contact HR to find out.
Why shouldn’t I just rely on the NHS?
This is a personal decision for each person to make. With the NHS you can often wait a very long time for treatment, and if you are admitted to hospital you will generally be on a ward with many other people. Whereas with health insurance you will be seen much faster and have access to private rooms and facilities if you require hospital treatment.
Taking out private medical insurance can be very beneficial if you play a lot of sports, as physiotherapists are much easier to see by going private, and the same is true if you want easier access to mental health treatment. Health cover is a great option for increasing the quality of non-emergency treatment and reducing the time you have to wait.
Overall it is worth bearing in mind that even if you take out health insurance you will still be entitled to use all NHS services. Also emergency treatment you require will be provided through the NHS as private hospitals usually aren’t equipped to handle these situations.
How can I get health insurance?
We can help with that. The best strategy is to decide what you’re looking to be covered for (for instance if you’re looking to insure against anything specific like sports injuries or cancer) and then use our reviews to compare the different options that offer the right policies.
Don’t forget first to check whether you can get free or reduced private medical insurance through the company you work for. If not, then you’ll want to find a policy that both covers what you need and is affordable. We research each insurer and policy thoroughly in order to explain to you, in plain English, what your best options are.
If you already know everything you need and want to get a quote now, then great! Click the link below and we’ll find you one right away.