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Is health insurance right for me?

Health insurance in the UK provides quick, private healthcare for you and your family when you need it the most. It can give you greater choice over the timing and location of your treatment, and enable you to be seen more quickly.

With private health insurance you pay annual or monthly health insurance premiums to access healthcare quicker. You may benefit from private medical insurance if you would prefer not to wait for treatment, you want to be treated at a private hospital, or you need specialist treatment.

Do I need private health insurance?

Private health insurance can be useful if you need to be treated quickly at a hospital close to your home. There are different levels of cover to choose from, but private medical insurance can include quicker treatment from diagnosis to treatment, mental health cover and access to a virtual GP appointment. You may also be offered breakthrough drugs for cancer treatment which might not be available on the NHS.

You will receive help for acute (immediate) conditions, and may also receive treatment for ongoing issues, depending on your policy.

Many people have health insurance as part of their employee benefits package at work, and this can often include private health cover for the whole family. However, it is also possible to buy private medical insurance as a standalone policy for you or your family.

Health insurance, otherwise known as private health care, or private medical insurance, allows you to receive private medical treatment for a fee. But why should you consider private health care when you can get free health care from the well-regarded NHS? This guide can help you learn more about the pros and cons of private health insurance, and whether it could be right for you.

What is the best private health insurance in the UK?

Buying a private medical policy gives you access to healthcare more quickly. It gives you more choice in where you get treatment, and the kind of hospital room you get. If you do not wish to wait for your turn for healthcare from the NHS, a private medical policy could solve this problem.

When looking for private medical insurance, there's no single best insurance policy. Compare health insurance quotes and policies to get the most out of your money for your care. How you choose your private healthcare plan depends on what you might need it for, your age and existing medical conditions, and what cover you require.

How does health insurance work in the UK?

When you have private medical insurance you will still go to see your local GP but you can tell them at the appointment that you have private health insurance cover. They can then refer you to a specialist, and you will be able to choose where and at which hospital you are treated. Once you have had your doctor's appointment you will need to let the private health insurance company know that you wish to claim on your policy. You will need to fill in a form and send it off.

What are the different types of health insurance?

Private medical insurance can cover one or more people in the family. It's often on offer as workplace scheme under your name and to which you can add family members. You can choose the level of health insurance cover that you need.

The quotes you receive will be based on your age, state of health (especially if you currently smoke tobacco), and any medical conditions that you already have.

Where you take out a policy, you either pay monthly premiums, or you pay a single annual premium, which covers you for medical care for the whole year. Then, if you need treatment, your healthcare insurance provider will help you pay for the treatment, or you claim back the costs from your provider after treatment.

Depending on your policy, your medical care plan may cover all the cost of the private medical treatment, or a portion of it.

What are the different health insurance cover levels?

Basic health insurance cover will pay for treatment if you are admitted as an inpatient to hospital – when you stay overnight.

Medium health insurance cover will include additional care if you are an outpatient – you come for treatment but are not admitted.

Some policies cover additional services such as physiotherapy, osteopathy and treatment for mental health conditions, including those not available on the NHS. You will usually have to pay an extra premium for these to be included if you are buying the medical healthcare plan yourself. Most workplace health plans include these extras as standard.

What are the different policy options?

Whether you're buying medical cover yourself, or are offered it as a perk at work, there are a number of different options:

Individual policy – this covers you for treatment if you're ill and injured and means that you don’t have to join an NHS waiting list but can be seen quickly. You can choose where you want to be treated.

Joint policy – this covers you and your partner or spouse for healthcare treatment when you need it. A joint policy may be cheaper than two individual policies.

Family policy - you can add the names of your children or dependents to ensure that they are covered for any health issues that may arise.

International health insurance – this covers you and anyone named on the policy if you need medical treatment abroad. It provides emergency, inpatient and outpatient cover if you're living or working abroad. It can be especially useful if you're in countries where medical care is very expensive – like the United States – or where public medical services are very basic.

Company health insurance is offered to employees and their families. It's usually an optional perk provided by your workplace. Your employer may offer this benefit to you as a free perk, or heavily discounted.

What to check before taking out health insurance

Before you compare medical insurance suppliers, it’s important to check the following details:

  • The level of excess on the policy (the amount you would pay towards a claim)

  • Which hospitals you’re able to be treated in

  • The types of patient fees covered

  • The kinds of additional benefits that may be included

  • Whether any particular illnesses and treatments are not covered

  • Any exclusions, or limitations to the policy

You can find out more about health insurance here.

How do I choose the level of cover with my medical health plan?

There are usually two types of policies:

Limited health care cover – also known as moratorium underwriting. This won’t cover you for any pre-existing illnesses or any health problems you’ve had in the last five years.

However, if you suffer no symptoms, seek no medical advice and have no treatment or medication for these pre-existing conditions they can become covered again in the future. This period tends to be two years symptom, advice, treatment and medication free.

This tends to be the cheapest type of healthcare insurance.

Full healthcare cover – also known as full medical underwriting. In this case, you complete a medical questionnaire, and the insurer will give you a definitive answer as to what is covered before your policy begins.

Most insurers will only cover you for new conditions, and treatments that can be administered over the short-term. As a result, long-term illnesses or regular care over a long period such as for a standard pregnancy or cosmetic treatments are not likely to be covered.

If you do have some specific areas of concern regarding your future health, then check with the insurer whether you will be covered for them and to what level.

How does private health insurance work?

Like most other forms of insurance, you will get to select the level of cover you require, so compare health insurance quotes, be it comprehensive, or a selection of a few areas.

Depending on your budget, you may wish to add in extras such as blood tests and x-rays, pick which hospitals you’d like access to, and how much excess you wish to pay.

The more comprehensive your cover, the more expensive your premiums are likely to be. So it's important to identify how important each area of cover is to you, and whether you would prefer NHS treatment in that case.

Health insurance can also provide cover for cancer treatment, including drugs and therapies that may not be approved for use by the NHS.

In a medical emergency you would still use Accident and Emergency but if you have a health insurance policy you can be moved to a private hospital, if you require further treatment or for recovery.

What are the benefits of private health insurance over the NHS?

The benefits you’ll receive from your private health insurance plan will depend on your level of cover, but in general you’ll be able to:

  • Skip NHS waiting lists and receive treatment as and when it’s convenient for you

  • Receive fast-track consultations and treatment for short-term medical problems

  • Receive private treatment in an NHS or private hospital

  • Choose your hospital

  • Have access to treatments not covered by the NHS.

Generally, people choose private health care over the NHS because they’ll be able to get appointments faster and more convenient to their schedule.

Getting time to see a specialist after being referred by the GP might also be quicker.

Most private hospitals give patients a private en-suite room with TV, a selection of food and up-to-date technology.

How to get started

Buying healthcare insurance is simple.

If you want to get started with your medical insurance plan then you can compare quotes before deciding to complete your application online or via a call to us. If you give us a call, we will work with our partner Active Quote to find you the best deal for your private healthcare plan.

Getting started on your medical insurance policy is easy – just tell us when you want to start and how much you want to spend.

You will need to put in your name, and date of birth, and the details of anyone else you want to include in the policy. Then you can see the different quotes available to you and compare. You can find some useful tips on health insurance in our guide.

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Making a health insurance claim

Where you suspect you need non-emergency medical treatment visit your local GP who will diagnose any problems you may have. If you need to be referred or require treatment and wish to use your health insurance policy to cover the cost of private healthcare you can arrange to do so.

After your claim has been confirmed with your insurer you can book your private treatment at a time that is convenient to you. You can then get fast-track treatment at a private hospital so you can recover as soon as possible.

Individual cover or family policy

Health insurance can be purchased on an individual or family basis. As an individual you can protect your health with a policy tailored to your budget and needs.

If you're looking to protect your family, you can combine individual medical insurance policies into one cost-effective policy without reducing the level of cover. You can compare both individual and family health insurance quotes online.

How to compare health insurance

To compare quotes just provide your details and those of anyone else who you would like included on the policy.

Once you have entered your details you will be able to compare policies from the leading UK insurers including Bupa, Aviva, AXA PPP, Vitality Health, Simplyhealth and many more.

You can compare different levels of cover from policies that cover only diagnostic treatment to comprehensive plans covering cancer and full in-patient and out-patient cover.

If you would like free assistance in choosing the best policy for you why not speak to a health insurance product specialist who can tailor your cover to suit your budget and needs. Speak to a product specialist today on 0800 862 0360.

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