What is private health insurance?
Private health insurance, also known as health insurance or private medical insurance, is cover you can take out to help with medical costs relating to private healthcare.
How does private health insurance work?
Private healthcare is healthcare not paid for by the National Health Service (NHS). As the costs aren’t publically funded the payment comes from you – which is where private health insurance comes in.
Your insurer will agree to pay for your medical costs to a certain extent, and it can be a useful option as you may have access to better or quicker treatment than you would with the NHS.
Can I still use the NHS alongside private health insurance?
Private health and medical insurance is designed to work with the NHS, which means you’ll still be entitled to free treatment at your GP and in A&E.
Do I need private health insurance?
Private healthcare can offer a number of benefits over the NHS – here’s what to consider before making your choice:
- Treatment: While the NHS offers you the right to make decisions about which GP you use and which hospital you’ll be admitted to, with private healthcare you’ll have a much wider choice. The breadth of treatment is likely to be wider, as private healthcare providers might be more willing to pay for niche medication or more experimental procedures. However it’s worth noting that the level of experience for rarer forms of treatment could be lower at private hospitals
- Waiting times: One of the most significant factors that tempts people towards private cover is the opportunity to bypass the longer waiting times you might experience with the NHS
- Comfort: Private hospitals can sometimes offer higher quality accommodation, including single-sex wards, private rooms, ensuite bathrooms, better food, and longer visiting hours
- Cost: The UK is one of the few countries in the world that offers fully subsidised healthcare. This means much of your treatment will be free with the NHS, while you’ll need to pay for the benefits of private care
While these can be important points, you should also remember that even with private health insurance not all of these benefits are 100% guaranteed. You might not get a place in a private hospital, or even a private room in an NHS hospital, and your waiting times might not be that much less than they would be if you weren’t covered by the private health insurance.
Who can get private health insurance?
Private health insurance is generally available for everyone, though you’ll need to be over 18 to take out a policy in your own name. You can take out a single policy for yourself, however joint private health insurance policies are also available – in fact, around half of all applicants look for a joint private health insurance policy.
ActiveQuote data, correct as November 2019
What does private health insurance cover?
The cover you’ll get from your private health or medical insurance will depend on your provider and your own circumstances, as well as the level of cover you take out. If you aren’t sure what level you’ll need, you can separate the cover you’ll get into:
- Inpatient care: Any tests or procedures you undergo while you’re a hospital in-patient
- Cost of stay: The cost of your accommodation in the hospital
- Outpatient care: Consultations, therapy, and medication you require once you’ve been discharged
- Exclusive treatments: Treatments that won’t be available on the NHS
What types of private health insurance are there?
Some insurers might categorise their levels of cover by the following:
- Basic cover, which pays for treatment and any associated costs when you’re admitted to hospital. It can also offer an element of cover for cancer treatment
- Medium cover, which includes all of the above plus outpatient support
- Comprehensive cover, which also adds cover for physiotherapy and mental health treatment
What extra policies can you get with private health insurance?
You may or may not want to consider some policy extras to bolster your cover. Some of these may be included as standard while others may be excluded outright, however it’s worth keeping an eye out for the following extras:
- Dental care
- Eye care
- Mental health support
What’s excluded from private health insurance?
While the specific exclusions will depend on your policy, many health insurance providers won’t offer cover for the following:
- Organ transplants
- Kidney dialysis
- Routine pregnancy
- Drug/alcohol abuse
- Cosmetic treatment
- Self-inflicted injuries
- Pre-existing conditions
- Chronic conditions
- Injuries resulting from dangerous sports or other conditions
- Mobility aids
How much does private health insurance cost?
The price you’ll pay for private medical cover will depend on certain factors, such as:
- Your age: Premium costs are generally higher the older you are. In fact, if you’re between 26 and 35 years old you’d pay an average of £818 a year for cover – compared to almost double the amount if you buy cover between the ages of 56 and 65
- Your location: Some locations, such as London, are seen as higher health risks, meaning cover is likely to cost more
- Your health: If you’re a current or former smoker you might also have to pay more for private health insurance
- Your policy: The more comprehensive your policy and the more add-ons you include, the higher the premiums will be
ActiveQuote data, correct as November 2019
How can I lower the cost of private health insurance?
To reduce the premiums you’ll pay for private health insurance, you can:
- Pay more excess: An excess payment is the sum of money you pay towards the cost of your claim before your insurer pays the rest. Most policies come with a compulsory excess fee, however some may also offer a voluntary fee – the more you choose to pay in excess the lower your premiums are likely to be as a result
- Reducing your cover: Taking out a large number of policy extras means you’ll be covered for more scenarios, but it’s worth considering whether you really need them. You might want to consider alternatives such as healthcare provided by your employer, the NHS, or paying for treatment yourself
- Reducing your hospital list: Private health insurance providers offer a list of hospitals for you to choose from, but reducing the number of hospitals on this list can help lower your premiums
- Adding a six-week option: Some providers also have a six-week option, which means that if the NHS can treat you within six weeks you won’t be able to claim on your insurance – choosing this policy can also help reduce your premiums
Compare private health insurance quotes
Comparing private health insurance quotes with MoneySuperMarket and our preferred partner ActiveQuote is the best way to find a cheaper health insurance deal. All you need to do is tell us a little about yourself and your lifestyle and we’ll search for the best quotes tailored to your requirements.
You’ll be given an estimate for the cost of basic, medium, and comprehensive cover, then one of our experts will call you to discuss your options, so you can choose a policy that’s perfect for you.