Does health insurance cover cancer?

8 min Read Published: 07 Feb 2024

Does health insurance cover cancer?Health insurance policies are designed to cover acute medical conditions; these are generally short-term conditions that can be diagnosed and treated quickly, such as appendicitis or a broken bone. Chronic conditions, which can be loosely defined as a condition or disease that lasts for three months or more are not normally covered on a health insurance policy. When it comes to cancer however, things start getting a little more complicated as some insurance companies will cover cancer as part of their core cover, whereas some won't.

According to Macmillan Cancer Support, there are around 393,000 new cases of cancer each year, resulting in 167,000 deaths, a scary and sobering statistic. Once referred by your GP, the average NHS waiting time to see a specialist is around two weeks and a maximum waiting time of 18 weeks for treatment to begin.

If you have a private health insurance policy however, you are likely to get seen within 48 hours which can be crucial when it comes to getting urgent treatment. Early diagnosis and treatment are key, particularly when you consider the 5-year survival rates across different types of cancer. When looking at breast cancer, the survival rate drops from 99.1% for stage 1 diagnosis to 87.6% for stage 2 diagnosis. It drops to just 55.1% if the diagnosis is made at stage 3. The NHS does a great job but gaining access to early diagnosis and treatment is something that many would consider, depending on the cost of the cover of course.

It can sometimes be easier to speak with a health insurance specialist* to understand exactly how your health insurance will cover you before you buy. If you arrange your health insurance this way, you will receive £100 cashback - this offer ends 30th April 2024.

Does every health insurance company cover cancer as standard?

No. While most health insurance companies offer some form of cancer cover as part of their core cover, not all do and so if you are keen to be covered for cancer then you should do your research before committing to one particular insurance company. We explain later in this article how to get the best cancer cover on your health insurance plan.

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What does health insurance with cancer cover include?

This is a difficult one to answer as every insurance company offers a slightly different list of benefits. That said, most insurance companies that offer cancer cover will provide the following as part of their core cancer cover or through additional options:

  • diagnostic tests
  • out-patient consultations
  • surgery
  • radiotherapy
  • chemotherapy
  • cancer drugs
  • in-patient and out-patient treatment
  • wigs and prosthesis
  • cancer care after diagnosis and treatment

Which health insurance companies cover cancer as standard?

Most health insurance companies offer an element of cancer insurance as part of their core cover and that includes well-known providers such as Axa, Aviva, Bupa and Vitality. Each insurer offers a slightly different level of cover and so the best way to ensure you are buying the most comprehensive policy is to speak to an independent specialist*. Some insurance companies do not offer cancer cover as part of their core cover and so you may have to purchase an additional cover option (often referred to as a 'bolt on') in order to be covered for cancer.

Which health insurance company provides the best cancer cover?

Every insurance company provides a slightly different level of cancer cover benefits which makes it extremely difficult to compare. Another consideration is that different people will have different priorities. Some people may place higher importance on the choice of hospitals, whereas others may want more focus placed on aftercare. Below we have compared some of the key cancer cover benefits for five of the biggest health insurance providers.

Health insurance cancer cover comparison

Company Cancer covered as part of Core Plan? Details In-patient and Day-patient care? NHS options Added Benefits
Aviva Yes Aviva has a cancer pledge stating that they'll cover the cancer treatment and palliative care you need, as recommended by your specialist. It also provides cover for aftercare, including consultations with a dietitian, as well as £100 towards wigs and up to £5,000 for prostheses Yes Able to take a six-week option to reduce the cost of premiums. If treatment is available on NHS within six weeks then you will be treated by NHS. Will pay £100 for each day or night of eligible treatment on the NHS, with no overall limit Up to 5 video GP consultations per member, per year. 'Get Active' gives members access to offers at health and fitness clubs nationwide. Access to a Stress counselling hotline
AXA Yes Axa will provide a dedicated cancer case manager to see you through your treatment. You'll get access to the latest in licensed treatment, drugs, support and care, including proven drugs that are not yet available on the NHS. It includes up to £400 a year for wigs and £5,000 a year for any required prostheses Yes NHS cancer support option - good for those who want to cut down the cost of premiums or who do not qualify for comprehensive cancer cover. This option does not cover the cost of treatment, however, it will cover the cost of a licensed cancer drug which the NHS will not pay for if the qualifying criteria is met 'Doctor at Hand' gives access to a GP or Advanced Nurse Practitioner by phone or video. Support for muscle, bone and joint pain. Specialist menopause support.
Bupa Yes

(Full cancer cover is an option that can be removed)

Full cancer cover ensures you have access to any cancer drug in the UK that’s licensed for your condition, even if it isn’t NICE approved (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) or available on the NHS. Bupa says that it will support its members from 'diagnosis to treatment' - and for palliative care too, if needed. It states that 'everyone’s cover is individual, and you may have some limits or exclusions on your policy' Yes  

NHS cancer cover plus provides cover only if the NHS cannot provide treatment. £100 paid per day if treated by NHS where you could have been treated privately

Access to Bupa rewards which includes up to 40% off monthly gym membership, 20% off Fitbit products, dental treatment discounts and more
The Exeter Yes Full cover for treatment and chemotherapy administered at home if necessary. Full cover for specialist consultations, tests and scans after the cancer has been diagnosed. Full cover for surgery, including the removal of a tumour and any consequent reconstructive surgery. Full cover for radiotherapy including when it is given for pain relief. Full cover for treatment aimed at controlling the symptoms of cancer or relieving pain rather than curing the cancer. Yes £150 paid per night if treated by NHS where you could have been treated privately (for up to 30 nights) Access to Healthwise, a member benefits service to help keep you happy and healthy. Includes access to remote GPs, second medical opinion service, mental health support, physiotherapy and health MOTs
Vitality Yes All plans include Advanced Cancer Cover, which pays all eligible costs associated with cancer once diagnosed. This means if you're diagnosed with cancer, Vitality cover your in-patient and out-patient costs in full. Up to £300 for Wigs and restyling, up to £200 for mastectomy bras and up to £5,000 for external prostheses Yes £125 paid per day if treated by NHS as day-patient (where you could have been treated privately) up to a maximum of £500

£250 paid per day if treated by NHS as an in-patient (where you could have been treated privately) up to a maximum of £2,000

Extensive partner rewards and discounts, check out our Vitality Health insurance review

Will I be covered for all cancers?

Yes. It does not matter what type of cancer you have been diagnosed with, if cancer is covered as part of your health insurance policy then you should be able to make a claim on your health insurance policy.

Can I get health insurance if I have cancer?

When you apply for health insurance you have the choice of being fully medically underwritten or applying on a moratorium basis. If you choose to be underwritten fully, then the insurance company will exclude any conditions for which you have previously sought advice, treatment or medication for and so it is unlikely you will be covered. If you choose to be underwritten on a moratorium basis, then all conditions for which you have sought advice, treatment or medication within the last five years are automatically excluded. Once you take a policy out, however, if you remain advice, treatment and medication-free for two years, the exclusion is removed and so you may then be able to make a successful claim. To read more about how health insurance policies are underwritten, check out our article 'How to compare the best private health insurance policies'.

Can I get health insurance if I've had cancer?

Yes, there is nothing stopping you getting health insurance if you have previously suffered from cancer, however, remember that an insurance company will exclude any condition for which you have received advice, treatment or medication for in the five years prior to applying. Depending on the severity of your cancer, you could find that your options are limited when it comes to claiming, as many potential claims could be linked to your cancer diagnosis.

In this instance, Axa may be your best option as they underwrite applications based on a 'specified' moratorium definition, rather than a 'related' definition. What this means is that they exclude specific conditions and place less emphasis on the link between conditions. For example, if you had high blood pressure in the past and had subsequently suffered a stroke, Axa would likely cover you for the stroke whereas other insurance companies may see those as 'related' and so may not cover you. We would always recommend that you speak to an independent specialist* in these circumstances as they have a wealth of experience and will be able to speak to the insurance company's underwriting department directly on your behalf. There is no one better placed to understand which insurer is best based on your own unique circumstances.

Can I get health insurance if I have a family history of cancer?

Yes, it is possible to get health insurance even if someone in your immediate family has been diagnosed with cancer previously. Insurance companies usually cannot ask you about genetic testing that you may have had as a result of familial cancer but you can choose to tell them if the tests were negative.

What is the best way to buy health insurance with comprehensive cancer cover?

The best way to ensure that you are getting the most comprehensive health insurance cover is to speak to an independent specialist*. Not only do they have access to every insurance company on the market, they understand the different types of insurance and exactly which conditions are covered as well as which conditions are likely to be excluded for each insurer. An independent specialist will tailor your cover to you and find you the best policy for your own unique circumstances. An advantage of an independent specialist is that you can provide them with the amount you are willing to pay and they can work backwards from that. This way you can get a policy that is perfectly tailored to you at a price that you are happy to pay.

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