Having health insurance means that some – or all – of the cost of private healthcare treatment will be covered if you’re ill or injured. Without medical insurance, private healthcare can be costly.

Even though the NHS offers free healthcare, many people still like to have health insurance, UK wide. That’s because private healthcare comes with added benefits, such as faster treatment.

As with any kind of insurance, private healthcare insurance comes at a price. You’ll have to pay monthly or annual premiums. But a private health insurance policy could work out cheaper than paying for the treatment outright. Of course, this does depend what healthcare treatment you end up needing to have.

You can either get single policy health insurance which is just for you, or you can get a joint or family policy to cover your loved ones too.

Some employers even offer private health care plans as a staff perk.

The benefits of private health care insurance

Private health care insurance comes with lots of health benefits.

Examples of these include:

  • You can bypass long NHS waiting lists, so you’ll be seen and treated faster

  • You’ll have more treatment options, including treatments or drugs that aren’t available on the NHS

  • You could be treated in a private hospital with your own room, in a more comfortable setting with amenities such as a TV and your own en-suite bathroom

  • You’re free to choose your doctor and hospital, giving you more control

  • You have more peace of mind about your health plan if you fell ill.

The downside to this is that private health care insurance is that the benefits aren’t guaranteed. Remember that even a private hospital can be too full to treat people, or can have a longer waiting list than you’d like.

Types of health insurance

Compare health insurance and get plenty of health insurance quotes before you make any decisions on which to choose. The first step is to pick which kind of health care insurance suits you best.

There are four types of insurance for private healthcare. They’re all suitable for different people. The types of private health care policies available are:

  • Individual health insurance – a personal insurance which covers just one person’s medical needs

  • Family health insurance – for you, your partner and children

  • Joint health insurance – covers two people, usually you and your partner

  • Children’s health insurance – children can have their own health insurance plan or they can be added to your medical insurance policy.

If you’re over 50, you might find that the best health insurance, UK wide, for you, is one designed specifically for your age. Take a look at private medical insurance policies for your age group.

What does a private health insurance policy cover you for?

Your private health insurance covers you for you for private healthcare treatment as an inpatient or outpatient. This means you could be covered for:

  • staying overnight in a hospital bed, for example for surgery as an outpatient

  • consultations or diagnosis appointments as a day patient (where you don’t need an overnight stay)

  • any other regular appointments where you don’t need to stay in a hospital overnight.

Think about what you want your private health insurance to cover. This could be illnesses, symptoms, injuries, and treatments. The more illnesses and injuries you choose to cover yourself for, the more your health insurance will cost.

The best private health insurance, will cover you for a vast array of illnesses and injuries.

If you want to cover serious illnesses like cancer, your private health care is likely to cost more.

The price would also go up if you wanted to cover pre-existing conditions too, such as asthma or physiotherapy. Most health insurance policies don’t automatically cover you if you have a flare up of a pre-existing condition. So this would be an added extra.

What does health care insurance not cover?

Most private health insurance, doesn’t cover you for:

  • long-term conditions

  • emergencies

  • treatment you choose to have but don’t necessarily need, such as cosmetic treatment

  • organ transplants

  • drug abuse

  • alcohol abuse

  • self-inflicted injuries

  • treatment abroad

  • mobility aids

  • injuries from taking part in high-risk sports

  • pregnancy care.

Health care insurance is usually for severe, curable and short-term conditions.

There are sometimes ‘extras’ that you can add on to your health insurance policy, which aren’t automatically included. For example:

  • dentistry

  • eyecare

  • physiotherapy

  • mental health.

How does medical insurance work?

Private medical insurance, UK wide, works like any other insurance policy.

You pay for it monthly or yearly and make a claim when you need to. If you need to make a claim, your private medical insurance provider will pay out for some or all of your private healthcare.

Some health insurance companies place a limit on how many individual claims you can make each year. There could also be limits on how many conditions and treatment types you can claim for.

Remember, you can still get free NHS treatment even if you have private health insurance. Private healthcare is designed to work alongside the NHS.

Read more about how health insurance works here.

How to find the best private medical insurance in the UK

The best private health insurance, UK wide, is known as comprehensive insurance. It’s considered the best private health insurance because it covers a wider range of treatments and conditions. But it’s not always the cheapest option.

There are three types of insurance for private health care:

  • Basic – usually pays for inpatient treatments and stays

  • Medium – usually covers outpatient care as well

  • Comprehensive – includes all of the above, plus cover for extra treatments such as physiotherapy.

Some medical insurance policies let you pick what to cover. They base the price around your choices.

After you’ve decided what you want, you can compare health insurance policies using our health insurance comparison.

Doing a health insurance comparison makes getting health insurance quotes easy. Check the following features to help you make a decision:

  • the level of cover

  • the cost

  • the excess charge

  • claim limits.

It's also good to know if there's a delay between buying the health insurance policy and making your first claim.

How much is private health care insurance?

Private health care costs vary. That’s because the cost of your medical insurance, is affected by many factors. These factors include:

  • your age – the price might increase with every birthday

  • your medical history – your insurer will want to know about pre-existing conditions

  • your family medical history – as this may be relevant to your own health

  • where you live – London is more expensive than other areas of the UK

  • your lifestyle – your insurer will want to know about your habits, such as whether you drink, smoke or exercise

  • what you want to be covered for – you’ll need to decide how much cover you want.

With private healthcare insurance, there are two costs to think about. The first is the cost of your health insurance policy and the second is your excess. When you make a medical insurance claim, you usually have to pay a ‘voluntary excess’ charge to make a claim.

Of course you want the best private health insurance so you can access the private medical care you want. But it’s important to find a policy you can afford.

How can you reduce the cost of your private healthcare

It’s important to compare health insurance, to find the best health insurance at an affordable best price.

But if you need to lower the cost of your healthcare insurance, there are several things that might help. These include:

  • agreeing to pay a higher excess when you make a claim

  • choosing to have NHS treatment if waiting times allow (you’ll get a discount on future policies if you haven’t made a claim)

  • proving to your private medical insurer that you live a healthy lifestyle – for example, by going to the gym

  • reducing the number of hospitals you have access to

  • reducing the level of cover you have

  • co-paying on claims, which is when you split the cost of treatment with your insurer

  • paying annually rather than monthly.