Where to Find the Best Health Insurance
Finding the best private health insurance in the UK is only possible if you know what to look for. Read this guide to health insurance to find out what you can expect and what to be wary of when searching for the best health insurance policy. This guide also tells you where to find the best UK health insurance providers.
What is private health insurance?
Health insurance is similar to other types of insurance, such as cover for your home or car. You have to pay premiums based on your circumstances to your insurance provider and then you can make a claim if you need to. Your health insurance should cover the costs of private healthcare. It can be extremely expensive to pay for private treatment on a one-off basis. With a health insurance policy, you will only have to pay a small portion of the cost as your excess. Private healthcare offers access to treatments and facilities which aren’t available for free with the NHS. You can still use the NHS, but you can also utilize private consultants and medical centres from an approved list. Your policy will renew every year, but premiums tend to increase with age. You could get individual health insurance, a joint couple policy, or family cover to include children.
Who needs private health insurance?
Unlike car insurance, health insurance is optional. The NHS already exists to offer healthcare to people in the UK for free. However, the NHS does not offer some kinds of treatment, and there are often long waiting times. This is why many people decide to pay for health insurance so that they can access private treatment if they need it. It wouldn’t be worth paying for if you were content with the treatment that you could get on the NHS. Less than 11% of people in the UK choose to take out private health insurance policies because it’s more affordable to rely on the NHS. Children also get priority NHS treatment, so family health insurance is usually not necessary. People choose private treatment when they would prefer greater comfort and speed.
What types of private health insurance are there?
As mentioned, health insurance can cover a single person, a couple, or a family. There are usually different policies available for older age ranges. There are also separate policies for specific treatment or conditions, such as optical or dental care, and pregnancy or chronic illness. Comprehensive policies cover a wider range of conditions and treatments, but they can be more expensive. A “pick-and-mix” style policy can save money if you tailor it to cover what you are likely to need. Fully underwritten policies offer larger payouts, but they will also have larger premiums. They require you to declare your full medical history as well. A moratorium underwritten policy would not require you to do this. However, it would pay out less, and would not pay out for pre-existing conditions. The provider would only pay for treatment for a pre-existing condition after the moratorium period expires. This is usually 2 years. There are also specialist health insurance policies which only cover the private treatment costs if the NHS would take longer than 6 weeks to provide the same care.
What are the benefits of private health insurance?
The obvious benefit of private health insurance is that you can see a consultant and receive treatment much faster. Private facilities are also more luxurious. You can choose your preference for hospitals and doctors from your provider’s list of private specialists. There will also be more treatments available than on the NHS. Even if you rely on the NHS, you can get private treatment on your insurance if you have to wait longer than 6 weeks, when most NHS patients receive treatment in up to 18 weeks. Health insurance can give you access to medications and physiotherapy that you could not get on the NHS. You can ask your GP to refer you to a specialist if you would prefer to get a second opinion from an expert. Though this is not the primary focus, health insurance policies often come with incentives like discounts on gym memberships or healthy food.
What are the drawbacks of private health insurance?
On the other hand, the cost of private health insurance is an obvious drawback. If your financial situation means that you cannot afford private health insurance, then it is not a necessity for you. There is the NHS to fall back on to get the help that you need for free, even if this is likely to take much longer. Even private healthcare can have exclusions, and most private treatment will still require paying an excess. More severe conditions like strokes, heart disease, and cancer are priorities for the NHS and private treatment for these is not guaranteed to be better than what the NHS can provide. Private health insurance also will not cover incurable conditions and excludes sports injuries, cosmetic surgery, transplants, and maternity treatment. There is also the issue of your insurance provider only allowing you to choose a pre-approved location or professional. They may not cover the place or person that you want, or there might not be anything near enough to be convenient. Premiums can already be expensive and will continue to increase as you age.
What does private health insurance cover?
Health insurance can cover appointments as a day patient, but not overnight stays. Most policies will cover outpatient care, such as consultations and treatments which don’t require an overnight stay. You will need health insurance that includes inpatient care if you want to cover hospital stays for tests or surgeries. The more that your health insurance covers, the more your premiums will cost. Some insurers will allow you to pick and choose what you would like your insurance policy to cover. This could include extra options such as physiotherapy, psychiatric treatment, dental or optical appointments, or home nursing. Some policies allow you to access exclusive drugs or complementary medical advice or therapy. It all depends on whether you go for basic or comprehensive cover, and for how many people on the same policy. Health insurance can cover routine checks, diagnostics like scans, and equipment as part of treatment like prosthetics or wigs.
What is not covered by private health insurance?
Private health insurance usually does not cover chronic and incurable conditions. This will include any pre-existing conditions such as diabetes or asthma. If you do not experience symptoms, check-ups, or treatment for a condition within the previous 5 years, then the insurer may cover it if the condition reoccurs. However, private health insurers generally do not cover emergency treatment, as the NHS provides this, or pregnancy care. Nor will they pay for elective surgeries, which includes things like treatment for fertility and cosmetic surgery, or rehabilitation for things like drug abuse. Your health insurance normally won’t cover you outside of the UK, but your travel insurance policy should cover it if you require medical treatment while abroad. Be aware that health insurance cover does have limits, even for the things that it does cover. You can only claim a certain number of times per year, and up to a certain amount. Most policies will not cover mental illnesses.
How much does private health insurance cost?
The costs of a health insurance policy include the annual or monthly premium, and the excess that you have to pay towards the cost of a claim. The cost of health insurance premiums depends on a range of factors. It takes into account your age, your medical history and your family’s medical history, your lifestyle, and the conditions or treatment types that you want your policy to cover. Elderly patients are more likely to make a claim, so premiums increase once you are over 50 years old. Premiums will also be higher if you smoke or are overweight because there is a higher risk of you developing a health problem. The same applies if you already have a pre-existing chronic condition. Where you live and the specialists available in your area can also affect the cost of health insurance. Your voluntary excess also affects the premium. The higher it is, the lower your premiums will be, and vice versa. Even basic health insurance can be expensive at the lower end.
How can you get cheaper health insurance?
If you do want health insurance but are finding it too expensive, there are ways to reduce the cost of health insurance. Like other types of insurance, you may be able to get a No Claims Discount if you do not make a claim over a certain length of time. As mentioned, opting for a higher excess will reduce your premiums. It will then cost you more if you do have to claim, however. The best way to reduce your premium is to prove your general health, for example, that you do not smoke or that you exercise regularly. The fewer hospitals and specialists you nominate for your cover, the lower the premiums should be as well. You can also reduce premiums by agreeing to set a waiting period. This means that if the NHS waiting time for the treatment is within the waiting period, then you must get the treatment from them instead. If it is any longer than your waiting period, then your insurance should cover private treatment to get it sooner. This period could be anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months, depending on your insurance. If the cover you need is more complex, then it might be worth paying a broker to negotiate the best policy for you to save money in the long run.
What are the alternatives to a private health insurance policy?
Don’t forget that the NHS or paying for your own private health insurance policy aren’t the only options. You can self-insure by creating a savings account and paying the equivalent as you would for health insurance. Then you may be able to afford private treatment if you do need it. If not, you’ll still have the money, which you would have lost through paying for unclaimed insurance. Just remember that you need the money to be accessible, so you can’t invest it. Alternatively, you may be able to get private health insurance through your employer. It is usually cheaper and more generous cover as an employee benefit, and even if you leave the job, you might be able to keep the policy. There are also healthcare cash plans, which are similar to private insurance but will only cover lower-cost health expenses. Otherwise, there is critical illness cover, which is usually an option with life insurance policies. It pays out a lump sum upon diagnosis of a critical illness. This can pay for treatment costs, mobility aids, or adapting your living space. The illnesses that they cover vary.
How do you choose the best health insurance provider?
Now you know all the basics of what to expect from health insurance policies and what to look out for. All you need to know now is where to find the best health insurance policy for you. Start with the biggest health insurance companies in the UK and see what they can offer you. It is best to work out exactly what you want and need from your health insurance policy before you start looking. This is why it could be helpful to hire a broker to assist you and ensure that you choose a policy that offers everything you’re looking for. Do not be afraid to shop around to compare health insurance policies before applying for one. If the biggest insurers in the market don’t suit your needs, then look for competitive deals from smaller companies. Bupa, Aviva, AXA, and Vitality are some of the most popular insurers in the UK for private health insurance. If you do not have the budget for a broker or the time to browse and compile the policy information yourself, then use comparison websites like Money Supermarket, Compare the Market, or uSwitch to find the best value deal.