If you're looking to buy health insurance you will likely have come across Benenden health - a member-owned organisation with low prices and access to some private health benefits. In this article, we'll describe what Benenden health offers and how it compares against more conventional private health insurance.
Who is Benenden health?
Founded in 1905, Benenden Health initially started out as a healthcare provider that treated people with tuberculosis in the early 1900s. It later changed its name to Post Office Sanatorium Society, extending its membership to the civil service and following subsequent name changes, Benenden Health emerged. Benenden health is a mutual company and acts on a not-for-profit basis returning any profits to the health community.
What type of health insurance does Benenden health offer?
Benenden health offers three different types of healthcare product. Its core product is its healthcare plan which provides medical diagnostics and treatment as well as access to 24-hour GP's. In addition, it also offers a health cash plan as well as health assessments and we explain each of the products in more detail below.
How does Benenden healthcare work?
Benenden healthcare is marketed as an affordable alternative to private healthcare cover with no need for medical checks and a low price. However, it is important to point out that it isn't the same type of health insurance cover that is provided by most mainstream health insurance providers such as Bupa, Vitality or Aviva. The biggest difference is that most other private health insurance policies will cover the cost of medical diagnostics, tests and treatments even if they can be carried out by the NHS, Benenden does not.
Benenden healthcare allows access to its benefits in two stages. Policyholders are only able to access a few of the policy features from day one and have to wait six months to unlock the full benefits package. We explain this in more detail below.
What does Benenden healthcare cover?
It provides (immediately):
- 24-hour access to a GP appointment
- 24-hour mental health helpline
- Access to care adviser for adults
It provides (after 6 months of premiums paid):
- Medical Diagnostics
- Medical Treatment at one of the hospitals in our treatment network for certain procedures
- Mental Health Counselling Support
- Financial Assistance
How much does Benenden healthcare cost?
Benenden healthcare cover costs £11.90 per person per month and is a fixed price that remains the same regardless of how many claims you make.
How does Benenden health cash plan work?
The Benenden health cash plan covers an array of different everyday health costs such as dental, physiotherapy and optician's fees with the payout ranging from £50 to £600 depending on the type of plan you are on.
The Benenden health cash plan is available to buy if you have the main healthcare cover or if you are travel insurance or home insurance policyholder.
The cover can replace the cost of these usual health expenses to take the uncertainty out of it.
How much does Benenden health cash plan cost?
The health cash plan is available at five different levels. The plans vary in cost according to the benefits that are included and the level of cover available under each benefit type. All plans include personal accident cover up to a maximum payout of £25,000.
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How do Benenden health assessments work?
Benenden health assessments offer members access to health checks even if they don't have symptoms with a view to highlighting any early health concerns.
How much do Benenden health assessments cost?
Benenden health assessments start at £74 for a full health assessment at a clinic and £49 for home test kits.
How does Benenden health insurance compare with mainstream health insurance?
Benenden health provides an array of health benefits that are similar to full private medical insurance but there are many differences and not all for the better, so you really do have to weigh up what type of benefits are important to you. Benenden's health solutions are a pick and mix type of insurance policy which means that all parts of the covers available aren't available as standard but more importantly, the main health insurance cover works on a discretionary basis.
It is expected that any health insurance plan will have some limitations but it is unusual for it to be payable on a discretionary basis. Benenden explains the discretion as follows:
"We are a friendly society providing benefits from a discretionary fund. This means that the provision of services is subject to the resources we have available through membership contributions."
There are listed hospitals that are accessible through Benenden as well as a list of procedures and treatments that can be covered. However, you would likely have to prove that you were not able to access timely treatment through the NHS first. This is generally not what is expected when you buy private health insurance but this is why Benenden is significantly cheaper than traditional health insurance plans.
However, the cost of Benenden health insurance is a fraction of what it might cost for full private medical insurance.
Benenden health reviews
Benenden Health scores 4.5 out of 5 stars on independent customer review site Trustpilot, based on over 3,000 reviews. This ranks it 15 out of 23 of the best health insurance companies on Trustpilot. The majority of poor reviews cite problems at the claim stage with policyholders claiming that they were unaware of the limitations of the health insurance. 77% of all reviewers rated Benenden Health 'excellent' and mentioned timely appointments and value for money.
Who should buy Benenden health insurance?
Anyone who wants access to health support when the NHS is struggling should consider Benenden health insurance. Benenden is not a fully comprehensive private medical insurance proposition and so may not meet your expectations if you buy it intending to replace the NHS for your healthcare needs.
Clearly, there will be people who would like to have some backup but are largely satisfied with the healthcare services provided through the NHS and perhaps don't mind having parts of their diagnostics and treatments covered by Benenden while being directed back to the NHS where this is suitable.
Who should not buy Benenden health insurance?
Those who want access to full private medical care that provides access to consultations, diagnostic testing and treatment, regardless of what is available through the NHS should think twice before buying Benenden health insurance, as it is likely that the insurance will fall short of their expectations.
How to work out what kind of health insurance is right for you
Health insurance can be complex. While it is possible to search for health insurance options online as well as access online comparison quotes, most websites won't draw attention to the small print and the nuances that exist between health insurance plans.
There is a wide range of health insurance options available and even if you don't wish to buy the most comprehensive health insurance option, you'll want to know that your main concerns and needs are met by the plan. Also, a large amount of technical language may prevent you from understanding exactly what is and isn't covered within any particular plan.
For this reason, we suggest that you speak to an independent private health insurance specialist*. They will take the time to understand what is important to you and how much you wish to spend before they make recommendations using their in-depth knowledge. They will use plain language to explain the pros and cons of different health insurance plans to help you make your mind up.
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