At a time when NHS waiting lists are at the highest level on record and with more than 6.4 million people currently waiting for treatment, more people than ever before are considering whether they should get private health insurance. In this article, we explain how health insurance works, the pros and cons of buying health insurance, as well as how much it costs and where best to buy it.
What is health insurance and how does it work?
Health insurance covers the cost of treatment if you have an injury or fall ill. You'll be referred quickly for scans and tests, get access to a number of consultants and specialists, as well as having more choice as to where and when you are treated. Premiums are paid either monthly or annually and the cost will depend on a number of factors including your age, where you live, the amount of excess you are happy to pay and the type or level of cover you choose.
What are the pros and cons of buying health insurance?
You need to consider the pros and cons when deciding whether you should get health insurance. We've summarised these below.
- Avoid NHS queues
- Choose where you are treated
- Unlimited scans and tests (diagnostics) with some policies
- Access to specialist treatment and drugs that may not be available on the NHS
- Fewer restrictions on visitors (some policies provide visitor accommodation)
- Emergency treatment not covered
- Pre-existing conditions not covered
- Chronic illness not covered
- Can be costly
For a more in-depth analysis of what is and isn't covered on a health insurance policy, see our article 'What does health insurance cover?'
Buying health insurance: The key questions
When considering health insurance, you should ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you worried about NHS waiting times?
- Would you like to have more of a say in how and when you are treated?
- Can you realistically afford the monthly premiums, bearing in mind that premiums increase each year with your age?
If the answer is yes to any of the questions above then you should consider exploring health insurance further. We explain more about the cost of health insurance and where best to buy it later in this article.
How much does health insurance cost?
The cost of health insurance is based on a number of factors, including your age, your health and your smoker status. Another factor that determines the cost is the type of cover you choose, meaning you can make it as basic or comprehensive as you wish. Additionally, you get to choose the level of excess (the amount you pay in the event of a claim). The higher the excess, the cheaper the policy will be. Below we have provided 3 simple tables breaking down the average cost of basic, mid-range (intermediate) and comprehensive health insurance.
Cost of basic health insurance
|Age of policyholder (Basic health insurance)||£0 Excess||£250 Excess||£500 Excess||£1,000 Excess|
Cost of mid-range/intermediate health insurance
|Age of policyholder (Mid-range / intermediate health insurance)||£0 Excess||£250 Excess||£500 Excess||£1,000 Excess|
Cost of comprehensive health insurance
|Age of policyholder (Comprehensive health insurance)||£0 Excess||£250 Excess||£500 Excess||£1,000 Excess|
If you want to know more about the cost of private health insurance, check out our article 'How much does private health insurance cost?'
Cost of private health treatment in the UK
When considering whether to buy health insurance it can be helpful to understand how much it would cost you to fund the private treatment yourself. Below, we provide the approximate cost for five common private medical procedures.
Approximate cost of common private healthcare procedures
|Treatment Required||Approximate cost of medical procedure if being treated privately (not on the NHS)|
|Removal of Appendix/Gall Bladder||£6,500|
What if you want health insurance but can't afford it?
There are many ways to bring down the cost of health insurance premiums and so don't immediately assume that it is beyond your budget. In our article '10 ways to cut the cost of health insurance' we provide practical tips on how to bring down the cost of the cover. The reality is that there is a policy to suit everyone's budget.
If you decide that you cannot afford or are unable to commit to a set monthly premium, then you may want to consider 'self-insuring'. Rather than paying a monthly premium to an insurance company, you simply put an amount into savings account each month which can build up over time. This method of saving for future treatment provides flexibility and the opportunity to earn interest, but it comes with its own risks. Your savings could fall significantly short, particularly if you require expensive surgery and of course there will always be the temptation of dipping into the money along the way.
How to buy the best and cheapest health insurance policy
Perhaps the trickiest part of the whole process is working out what health insurance provider is best and how to get the cheapest health insurance quote for you. It can be difficult when comparing health insurance quotes via online comparison sites because every insurance company offers a slightly different health insurance product. We would recommend speaking to an expert independent health insurance specialist* whose services we've vetted. They guarantee to match any like-for-like quote that you receive elsewhere, so you can be confident that they have your best interests at heart. If they can't, they will give you a £50 voucher.
If a link has an * beside it this means that it is an affiliated link. If you go via the link, Money to the Masses may receive a small fee which helps keep Money to the Masses free to use. The following link can be used if you do not wish to help Money to the Masses and do not want to take advantage of any special offers - Assured Futures