Health Insurance

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What is Private Health Insurance?

Private health insurance is an insurance policy which covers the cost of private healthcare. It works in a similar way to any other insurance – you pay monthly or annual premiums, and your provider pays out for some or all of the cost of the private medical treatment you receive.

You can take out a single policy for yourself, or a joint policy to cover you and your partner. This can make things easier as you’ll only have one provider, one policy, and one point of contact to deal with.

A joint health insurance policy is on average over £160 cheaper than two separate policies

What are the benefits of health insurance?

Private healthcare can offer a number of benefits over using the NHS, including:

Treatment

You’ll have a wider choice of treatment options

Waiting Times

You’ll be able to bypass long waiting times

Comfort

Comfort

You’ll get access to better hospital accommodation

What is covered?

What does private health
insurance cover?

Private health insurance can help you pay for a number of healthcare-related costs, though the exact level of cover you’ll get will depend on the policy you take out:

Basic

A basic health insurance policy will usually pay for treatment and any related costs while you’re an inpatient at the hospital

Medium

A medium health insurance policy generally covers outpatient care as well as inpatient support

Comprehensive

A comprehensive health insurance policy includes everything above as well as cover for extra surrounding treatment, such as mental health care and physiotherapy

Find the right type of health insuance

 

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Individual health insurance

Individual health insurance enable you to bypass
lengthy NHS waiting times and receive treatment quickly
should you become ill or injured.

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Child health insurance

Child health insurance provides tailored cover for your
childrens growing needs offering peace of mind that
their health care is protected.

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Family health insurance

Family health insurance provides cover for the whole
family ensuring that treatment is received quickly should
the need arise.

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Joint health insurance

Joint health insurance offers peace of mind that should
either of you require treatment it will be received
promptly and at a hospital of your choice.

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How much does private health insurance cost?

The cost of private health insurance varies by provider, but you can generally expect your premiums to be affected by:

Your policy

Choosing a more comprehensive policy with extras is likely to raise your premiums. However many providers offer flexible options that can help lower the cost of cover, such as taking out a joint policy or paying more excess. Joint policies can be a cheaper option than taking out two separate individual policies – on average a joint policy costs £1,608* for a year’s cover, which is over £160 cheaper than two single policies

Your location

Private health insurance also tends to cost more if you live in certain locations. The most expensive areas are London, the north-west and the south-east, while the cheapest is Scotland

Your age

You can usually expect the cost of health insurance to be higher the older you are, as you are at increased risk of needing medical treatment. In fact, you’ll pay almost three times as much for health insurance aged 56 to 65 than you do if you are under 25*

Your habits

If you’re a smoker you’ll almost always see an increase in premiums – this often includes using nicotine substitute products like e-cigarettes

Seven companies to choose from

Compare health insurance quotes from all the major players like:

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How does private health insurance work?

Private health insurance lets you claim for the cost of private medical care, rather than paying for it yourself or using a publicly funded health services like the NHS. You’ll visit your GP if you suspect you have a health problem as you usually would, however you should let them know you have private cover.

If they need to, they’ll refer you to a specialist. With private health insurance you may be able to choose private hospitals or specialists which might not be available on the NHS.

After this you’ll need to tell your insurance provider that you want to claim, and they’ll confirm whether the treatment you want or need is covered by your policy. If it is, they’ll approve your claim and your GP will book your appointment – the cost will then be picked up by your insurer.

What optional extras can you get with private health insurance?

Depending on the provider you choose, some of these may be included as standard while some may be excluded entirely. However you’ll usually be able to choose to add:

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

What isn’t covered by private health insurance?

Private health insurance providers may 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:

  • 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

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:

  • 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 might lower your premiums as a result
  • 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
  • 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
  • Co-pay any claims: You might also 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 for the insurer, you can also lower your own monthly cost of cover
  • Reduce your cover: If you don’t need certain extra levels of cover, stripping them out of your policy can also help keep your premiums down as you’ll only pay for the cover you actually need

Do I have to renew my cover every year?

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

It’s better 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.

Can I add other people to my private health insurance policy?

You’ll be able to take out joint private health insurance if you want to add your partner to your policy, while some providers will also let you add your children. However this will largely depend on the provider and what they can offer, which is why it pays to shop around so you can find the best possible deal.

Will I be covered for cancer?

Some providers might offer some form of cancer cover as part of their basic, medium, or comprehensive policies, while others might only have it as an extra you need to pay for. It will depend on your provider and the policy you take out, so it’s always best to make sure before buying.

Are there any age limits to private health insurance?

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.

Should I pay monthly or annually for private health insurance?

As with any kind of insurance, some providers might charge more for annual payment and some might charge more for monthly premiums. It’s up to you how you’d like to pay, but insurers will generally let you know which the cheaper option is.

Will I have to do a medical to get private health insurance?

You shouldn’t usually have to undergo a medical in order to get cover – most insurers will simply ask you to fill out a medical history form.

Private health insurance jargon buster

Understanding health insurance can be a daunting task, never mind reading through pages of policy documentation that is full of insurance terms. That’s why we are here to help and have made a directory to simplify what we mean:

  • Certificate of insurance: Sometimes referred to as a membership certificate, this is the documentation you receive from your insurer which summarises your cover. You may have to provide it if you wish to switch to another insurer or make a claim.
  • Day patient: To qualify as a day patient, you will typically return home on the same day as your test or procedure and have taken up a bed whilst in hospital.
  • Excess: An excess is the amount you agree to pay at the point of claim before the insurance starts to pay out. A higher excess can also sometimes be used to reduce a monthly premium.
  • Exclusion: An exclusion is something an insurance company will not cover, and can include a specific condition, a treatment or your selection of hospitals.
  • FCA (Financial Conduct Authority): The financial regulatory body in the UK, which regulates the financial markets to ensure that firms treat their customers fairly and act with integrity.
  • FOS (Financial Ombudsmen Service): An independent service designed to settle unresolved disputes between businesses providing financial services and their customers.
  • Full medical underwriting: Based on your full medical history, this may require a medical exam and doctor’s notes. With full medical underwriting, there is more certainty of what is covered on your policy and what is excluded.
  • In-patient: To qualify as an in-patient, you must have been admitted to hospital and spent at least one night in a hospital bed.
  • IPT (Insurance premium tax): The tax levied on general insurance premiums for those living in the UK.
  • Moratorium underwriting: A simpler and quicker form of underwriting that does not require your full medical history, although it may not cover you for illnesses or conditions that have occurred in the last few years. With this option, it’s important to be completely clear on what your provider considers to be a pre-existing condition.
  • NCD (No-claims discount): A discount applied to a premium, typically applied when no claim has been made.
  • Out-patient: A patient who visits hospital typically for a diagnostic test or consultation.
  • Self-pay: This term is used when someone receives private medical treatment and decides to pay their medical bill directly without claiming on their insurance.
  • Underwriting: The underwriting of a policy measures the risk of someone’s health which then stipulates the terms and conditions of a policy.

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