The best private health insurance

The health and security of our loved ones has always played an essential part of family life. Even if we don’t have children or we live alone, we always like to feel secure and prepared for the event of a health crisis.

But perhaps now, as we’ve adjusted to life in a global pandemic, we realise even more so, the fragility of life. Taking our health for granted simply isn’t an option anymore, and so many of have taken steps to becoming more healthy and living a healthier lifestyle.

We might have given up smoking, week night wine, regular takeaways and skipping breakfast in favour of green smoothies, morning runs and eating more wholesome, plant-based foods. But what else can we do?

For many, it’s taking out private health insurance.

However, signing up to an insurance policy is something that can make us feel wary. What if we’re getting ripped off? What if our policy has hidden T&Cs; that we don’t know about or even understand? What if certain conditions aren’t covered?

We get it. Navigating the often confusing world of health insurance is a minefield. So here we’re going to take a look at how private medical insurance works, what’s covered (and importantly, what isn’t covered) and how you can get the best deal for you and your family.

What is private health insurance?

Private health insurance is a type of insurance, that’s normally paid for on a monthly basis, that covers you (and anyone else you add to your policy, such as a spouse or child) for the cost of healthcare in a private hospital, clinic or other treatment centre.

You pay your medical insurance company a fixed fee each month. Then, if you need medical treatment, rather going to the NHS, you get to choose a private doctor or medical specialist at a medical establishment also of your choosing. Depending on your level of cover, your consultations, treatment, medicine, medical devices and surgical procedures are then paid for by your medical insurance company.

It essentially works by helping you to jump the queue. Which, when you or a loved one is sick or injured, can help to take some of the pressure and worry off, allowing you to concentrate on getting yourself or a family member well again.

What do health insurance policies cover?

Different health insurance policies and different private healthcare insurance companies cover different levels of care. As a general rule, the most basic policies cover you for essential care and the more comprehensive (and more expensive) policies include more specialist care and medications.

Most private health insurance policies cover both outpatient and inpatient treatment as standard. These generally also include the diagnostic tests, medicines, surgical procedures and nursing care that you may need, including overnight stays in hospital. Some policies are capped however, and limit the amount you can claim for repeat outpatient consultations and treatments.

The more you pay for your policy, generally the more is included. Some more expensive policies for example, may cover the cost of drugs that may not yet be available on the NHS (but have met all the criteria for safety and efficacy set by the governing healthcare body, NICE, or the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence).

Other medical conditions that are often only included in more comprehensive health insurance policies are:

  • psychiatric care
  • complementary therapies
  • nursing cover at home
  • private medical transport including ambulances
  • pre-existing medical conditions
  • substance abuse
  • organ transplants
  • normal pregnancy
  • assisted reproduction such as IVF procedures
  • non-essential cosmetic procedures
  • 24-7 help and advice

If any of these are important to you, then it’s important to consider them when looking for the best private health insurance.

Consider also, the terminology often used in policies. For example, some policies will cover you for a “curable illness” but may not cover you for “long-term care”.

Are there different types of private health cover?

Some policies require you to disclose your full medical history to your insurer. These are called ‘fully underwritten’ policies. They can be cheaper because you’ve been clear about any pre-existing conditions, plus you’ll know from the start what you’re not covered for.

If you don’t want to give a full disclosure, opt for a so-called ‘moratorium’ policy. However, these can be more expensive, and you may find that something you’re not covered for comes as a surprise later on.

Other policies can be more bespoke to your needs, for example if you’re over a certain age or retired or you’d like cover for one particular condition such as heart disease or cancer.

How much does private health insurance cost?

Your age, where you live, your job and your lifestyle can all have an effect on how much your policy might cost. Estimates vary, but very generally speaking, if you’re under 65 years old, you might pay around £1,200 per year, split over 12 monthly instalments. If you’re over 65, this cost may rise to around £2,000.

What are the benefits of paying for private health insurance?

Of course, the best way to look after your health is to make long-term, healthy lifestyle choices. This means eating a diet filled with fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, lean protein sources and healthy fats, whilst keeping the takeaways and snacks for special occasions and treats. It also means taking regular exercise, getting plenty of fresh air and nourishing sleep, avoiding stress where possible and keeping alcohol intake to within the guidelines.

But even with the best intentions, we can still fall ill or have an accident.

Having a private healthcare policy that covers you for these times gives you peace of mind. As fantastic as our NHS is, we all know that it’s overstretched, especially since the coronavirus pandemic has meant delays to other essential and non-essential tests, treatments and surgeries.

That’s why we think that, if you can afford it (or you can make lifestyle changes so that you can afford it), having private healthcare cover is a good idea. It will help you gain access to the right care quicker than being on an NHS waiting list, and with much more choice over who gives you your care, and where.

Things to consider when looking for the best private health insurance

Think about what you and your family need. If you’re active and love to pursue outdoor activities and extreme spots, then you probably need cover that will help in the event of an accident. If you have young children, look for family health insurance that will cover all the bumps, scrapes and illnesses that are a regular consequence of family life. Look for policies that cover parental accommodation too, in case your child requires overnight stays in hospital.

The best private health insurance for you is out there, it’s just a case of finding it. And we can help! We’ll help you compare policies from all the major health insurers, including Bupa, AXA, AVIVA and Vitality. Ask us to provide you with a quote, and you can rest assured that you’ve got your healthcare needs covered.