Skip to content
Did you know your browser is out of date?
To get the best experience when using our website we recommend that you upgrade to the latest version of one of these browsers.

Health insurance

Find the right health insurance

Get individual or family health insurance

What private medical insurance companies do we work with?

Comparing private medical insurance across different providers can help you find an affordable policy for you

company logo for freedomcompany logo for vitalitycompany logo for health on linecompany logo for axa healthcarecompany logo for exetercompany logo for bupa

What is health insurance?


Private health insurance covers the cost of private healthcare. Like other insurance, you'll pay monthly or annual premiums - then, should you need private medical treatment, your provider will pay out for some or all of the cost. 

Private medical insurance works as a helping hand when you need it most, from in-patient treatment to extra support for mental health, depending on your policy. You can take out private health insurance for yourself, or as a joint policy to cover you and your partner. 

Health insurance illustration

Do I need private health insurance?

Private health insurance gives you choice when it comes to medical treatment. Whether you need it will depend on your personal preferences, and if you would rather have private treatment than publicly funded healthcare like the NHS.  Some reasons to opt for private health insurance include:

  • 1 icon

    You’d prefer not to wait

     If you’d like to jump ahead of NHS waiting lists, private health insurance can help you be seen to quicker which can be valuable when it comes to surgical treatment

  • 2 icon

    You’d prefer a private hospital

    If you enjoy a quieter environment, private health insurance can give you more privacy and home comforts

  • 3 icon

    You want/need specialist treatment

    Some treatment isn’t offered by the NHS, especially specialist surgery for sports-related injury. Make sure your health insurance provider covers the treatment you need beforehand

How does health insurance work?

Your private health insurance will cover the cost of private medical care, rather than you paying for it yourself or using public health services like the NHS.

If you think you have a health problem, you’d visit your GP as usual but let them know you have private cover. They’ll refer you to a specialist if needed – with health insurance, you may be able to choose private hospitals or specialists that aren’t offered by the NHS.

You’ll then need to tell your insurer that you want to claim and they’ll confirm whether the treatment you need is covered by your policy. If your treatment is covered, your insurer will approve your claim, your GP will book your appointment and the cost will be sorted out by your insurance provider.


What does private health insurance cover?

What is covered by private health insurance will depend on the type of policy you choose. Private health insurance can cover:

  • Tick icon

    Tests and appointments

    Diagnostic tests, consultation appointments and services like physiotherapy and sometimes psychiatry

  • Tick icon

    Inpatient treatment

    If you need to stay in hospital, health insurance may cover inpatient treatment like tests and surgery

  • Tick icon

    Out-patient treatments

    Some health insurance policies cover out-patient treatments (such as specialists and consultants) 

  • Tick icon

    Other options

    More inclusive policies may cover home nursing, private ambulance and dental treatment

What are the benefits of health insurance?

Private health insurance can come with different benefits depending on your policy. These include:

  • Clock icon

    Reduce waiting time

    You're likely to receive treatment and appointments quicker than you would on the NHS

  • Physiotherapy icon


    With private health insurance, you're likely to get quicker access to physiotherapy sessions than you would through NHS treatment

  • Location icon

    Choose your surgeon or hospital

    You may have a choice of specialist surgeons and be able to choose your hospital, which isn't possible on the NHS

  • Room icon

    Private room

    You'll get a private room, rather than staying in an open ward which may be mixed-sex

  • Link icon

    Specialist referrals

    You'll be able to ask your GP to refer you to an expert or specialist working privately, so you can get a second opinion or specialist treatment

  • Medal icon

    Specialist treatment

    You may get specialist treatment that isn't offered by the NHS (for example, specialist surgery for sports-related injury.)

How much is health insurance?

Health insurance won't cost the same for every person - your premium will be calculated based on different factors, including:

  • Your age

    Age can be an important factor in how your health insurance premium is calculated. As you get older, you become more at risk of developing health conditions and needing medical services

  • Your lifestyle

    If you’re a smoker, this will affect your premium as you’re seen as higher risk. Reducing your alcohol intake may also help bring costs down

  • Your cover options

    Comprehensive health insurance is more expensive than a basic policy, so decide if more extensive cover is needed if you're looking to keep costs down

  • Your excess level

    The higher your excess, the more you'll contribute towards your healthcare costs - so the lower your premiums will be 

Find the right type of health insurance for you

There are different types of health insurance to choose from to suit your needs, including:

  • person icon

    Individual health insurance

    Individual health insurance helps you skip NHS waiting times and receive treatment quickly should you become ill or injured

  • shield icon

    Family health insurance

    Family health insurance provides cover for the whole family, with treatment that is offered quickly should any of you need it

  • over 50s icon

    Child health insurance

    Child health insurance offers tailored cover for your child's growing needs, and if they become ill or injured

  • Settings icon

    Joint health insurance

    Joint health insurance offers couples peace of mind should either need treatment, received quickly and at a hospital of your choice

Rose Howarth

Our expert says

"When choosing your health insurance policy, make sure you consider exactly what treatment you're looking to cover, just in case the unexpected happens and you need medical support. A comprehensive policy can cover extra treatment, like physiotherapy, which can be reassuring if you need surgery. So, for extra peace of mind, weigh up exactly what you want your policy to cover so you aren't left feeling disappointed!"

- Rose Howarth, head of niche insurance

What do I need to get a health insurance quote

To get a private health insurance quote, all you need to do is tell us a bit about yourself and your medical history, as well as the level of cover you need. From there, we'll put together a list of quotes tailored to your requirements. 

You'll be able to compare deals by the overall monthly or annual cost as well 
as the level of cover you'll get and any extras included in the policy. 

Remember that as with all insurance products, the cheapest option available won't always be the best. We recommend you look for a balance between 
cost and coverage to make sure you end up with the right level of protection 
at the right price.

Single vs joint health policies

How can I reduce the cost of private health insurance?

If you're looking for ways to cut the cost of private health insurance, you could consider:

  • Tick icon

    Paying more excess

    Excess payments are what you pay towards your claim before your insurer covers the rest. If you choose to pay more in excess it can indicate to insurers that you'll only claim when you need to, which means they may lower your premiums as a result

  • Tick icon

    Take a six-week option

    A six-week option is something you can take that means you'll only claim on your private policy if you won't be seen within six weeks on the NHS. This can help cut insurance costs as it can reduce the likelihood of you needing to claim

  • Tick icon

    Reduce your cover

    If you don't need certain extra levels of cover, removing them from your policy can also help keep your premiums down as you'll only pay for the cover you actually need*ActiveQuote data, correct as November 2019

  • Tick icon

    Co-pay any claims

    You may have the option to pay a certain percentage towards you claim on top of the excess payment - known as co-payment. By reducing the cost of your claim, you can also lower your own monthly cost of cover

  • Tick icon

    Reduce your hospital list

    Reducing the number of preferred hospitals on your list can also bring your premiums down, essentially as a reward for being less fussy

  • Tick icon

    Compare providers

    Comparing private medical insurance across different providers can help you find an affordable policy for you

It's unlikely that you'll need to use your health insurance for COVID-19 treatment as the majority who get COVID-19 recover fairly quickly and won't always need to go into hospital.

If you are sent to hospital because of coronavirus, it will be seen as emergency treatment. Emergency treatment is always handled through the NHS, as private hospitals aren't designed to cover emergency care. 

Health insurance is usually intended to cover conditions that occur or develop after you've taken out your policy. If you have a pre-existing condition you'll generally still be able to buy private health insurance, however it's unlikely you'll be covered for treatment if it flares up.

Some insurers offer cover for certain pre-existing conditions if they are seen as minor (but the definition for this can vary), or if they believe the symptoms are unlikely to come back again. If you haven't experienced any symptoms for around five years (this may vary), insurers may be more willing to cover you for the condition.

Private health insurance providers can have extensive lists of conditions that won't be covered, as well as certain situations where you won't be able to claim for treatment costs. Some situations and conditions that aren't covered by private health insurance include:

  • Organ transplants
  • Cosmetic treatment
  • Pre-existing conditions
  • Chronic conditions
  • Self-inflicted injuries
  • Injuries related to dangerous sports or activities
  • Substance abuse
  • Routine pregnancy
  • Mobility aids

Depending on the provider you choose, there may be optional extras you can add to your private health insurance policy. Some of these extras may be included as standard, while some may be excluded entirely. You'll usually be able to choose to add:

  • Dentistry cover
  • Eyecare cover
  • Physiotherapy
  • Homeopathy
  • Mental health support

Some health insurance providers might have an auto-renewal feature in place, which means you won't necessarily need to renew it yourself. However auto-renewals can be risky as insurers often raise premiums when they renew your policy.

It may be best to compare policies when yours is running out, in order to ensure you can stay on the best available deal for the cover you need.

You can take out joint private health insurance if you want to add your partner to your policy. Some health insurance providers will also let you add your children, so you have one policy for the whole family. 

It's worthwhile checking what your provider offers, so if you're not happy with your cover options you can shop around and find the right deal for your needs. 

You'll likely need to be over 18 to take a policy out for yourself, but under-18s can usually be added to their parent or guardian's policy - again, it's best to check beforehand instead of assuming. Some providers might have upper age limits, but even if they don't you can generally expect to pay more the older you are when you take out a policy.

You shouldn't need to go through a medical to get private health insurance. Most insurers will simply ask you to fill out a medical history form, so they can get an understanding of your lifestyle and medical history.

If your work offers private health insurance through an employee benefits package, it's unlikely that you'll need to take our private health insurance yourself. Just make sure you check exactly what you're covered for through your work, as your policy may not cover what you need it to. 

If you're after health insurance that covers optional extras like dentistry or physiotherapy, your policy through your work may not cover this. 

Health insurance is not the same as a healthcare cash plan, and you can have both at the same time. 

Health care cash plans are schemes where you pay a monthly fee to cover your routinely medical appointments, while health insurance usually covers treatment for conditions that develop after you take out your cover. You'll use a cash plan for routinely appointments, like an eye test or dental check-up. 

Unlike medical insurance, which is used for private treatment, a healthcare cash plan can be used alongside the NHS (as you may be expected to pay for prescriptions, eye tests and the dentist, depending on where you live.)

Depending on your policy type, you may need to pay an excess only once each policy year, while other policies will charge an excess each time you make a claim. The higher excess you have, the lower your health insurance premiums are likely to be. 

Health insurance can cover you for private health care in the UK, while critical illness cover pays out a lump sum or source of income if you're diagnosed with a serious illness that your policy covers. Unlike health insurance that you claim on for private medical treatment, critical illness cover is there for financial peace of mind, if you're diagnosed with a serious illness during the term of your policy.

If you're buying a private health insurance policy yourself, it's unlikely to be tax deductible. But if you're an employer buying private health insurance for your employees as a benefit package, it may be classed as a business expense - so you may be able to claim a tax deduction. 

For more information on tax deductions and health insurance, you should contact the HMRC.

Most private health insurance policies won't cover you if your fall unwell abroad, but it's best to check this with your insurer as policies do vary. If your policy does offer cover abroad, it's likely to only pay out for emergency treatment. With this in mind, it's important that you take out medical travel insurance when travelling outside the UK, so you can be protected against the unexpected.

Your policy can cover cancer treatments (such as chemotherapy/radiotherapy), recovery and access to cancer-preventing drugs. Health insurance policies with comprehensive cancer care can provide treatment for chemotherapy and surgery. While some policies can have annual limits (for example up to £30,000 per policy member), others can be unlimited depending on the level of cover chosen.

MoneySuperMarket gives you lots of clever ways to save a lot, by doing very little.

  • Take control of your credit score by checking and improving it for free with Credit Monitor 
  • Never overpay again with Energy Monitor, our energy monitoring service 
  • Over 50 ways to Get Money Calm

So how do we make our money? In a nutshell, when you use us to buy a product, we get a reward from the company you’re buying from.

But you might have other questions. Do we provide access to all the companies operating in a given market? Do we have commercial relationships or ownership ties that might make us feature one company above another?

We commit to providing you with clear and informative answers on all points such as this, so we have gathered the relevant information on this page.