The cost of private health insurance is presumed by many to be beyond their means and as such, you may view it as luxury insurance. However, it is worth looking at the real cost of health insurance plans before you make this assumption. Although as UK residents you can access the National Health Service (NHS) for the majority of your medical needs, waiting times for some aspects of public healthcare can cause frustration and this is when access to private healthcare can make a significant difference to diagnosis, treatment and recovery from illness and injury.
In fact, there is a range of private health insurance options* to suit different private medical insurance needs and budgets making the cost of private health insurance accessible to a wide range of the population.
So how much does private health insurance cost? In this article, we explain what private health insurance is, what it covers, whether you need it, what it costs and crucially, how to reduce the cost of private medical insurance as well as ways to search the private medical insurance market effectively.
1 minute summary - How much does private health insurance cost?
- The cost will depend on the insurance company you choose, the type of cover you apply for, the excess you choose, your age, health, claims history and whether you smoke
- You can receive reduced premiums at renewal with no claims discounts
- Premiums range from roughly £25 to £100 per month
- Most private medical insurance policies provide private GP appointments, specialist referrals, diagnostic testing and medical treatment
- You can usually access top surgeons and hospitals, specialist drugs and treatment that may not be available on the NHS
- Many policies include additional therapies such as physiotherapy and mental health support.
- Always shop around for the best deal
- Access an instant online health insurance quote* or speak to an independent expert who can find you the best and cheapest health insurance plan
- You will receive £100 cashback if you buy your health insurance this way – the offer ends on 31 January 2024.
What is private health insurance?
Private health insurance provides you with quick access to private medical staff and facilities, enabling you to be seen faster than on the NHS. With private health insurance, you can often be referred, diagnosed and treated within a matter of days. If treatment is required you will often be given your own room with ensuite facilities, round-the-clock visiting hours and even access to treatment and drugs that are not available through the NHS.
What does private health insurance cover?
Private health insurance usually covers access to private outpatient consultations including tests, and investigations involved in diagnostics and treatment. Inpatient treatment in a private hospital is usually also covered but some of the more commonly used and lesser-known benefits are access to virtual private GP access, therapies and counselling.
However, the frustration with private health insurance is that the insurance companies that provide it have made it unnecessarily complicated. Firstly, there are different levels of cover you can buy which can broadly be described as basic, intermediate and comprehensive, each offering varying levels of cover. Next, you will need to choose an excess you would be willing to pay should you make a claim (similar to car insurance). Finally, when it comes to applying, you will have to choose between applying on a full medical underwriting basis or a moratorium basis. We explain all of these options in more detail in our article “How to compare the best insurance policies in the UK”. Below, we have provided a summary of the main features of a private health insurance policy:
- Private GP appointments
- Specialist consultations
- Speedy consultation, diagnosis and treatment
- Access to top surgeons
- Access to private hospitals
- Likely to get a private room with ensuite facilities
- Access to specialist drugs and treatment that may not be available on the NHS
- Mental health support
How much does private health insurance cost?
The cost of health insurance will vary based on your personal information and the choices you make to build your health insurance policy. The level of cover you choose will determine what things you can claim for so it will affect the cost of private health insurance for you.
In order to demonstrate how much private health insurance costs, we gathered a number of competitive health insurance quotes from insurers across the health insurance market. These included but were not limited to quote Aviva, WPA, Bupa, The Exeter, Vitality, General & Medical, AXA Health, National Friendly, Freedom Health Insurance and Health-on-line. We looked at the cost of private health insurance for people aged 25, 35, 45 and 55 years old and then applied different excess amounts to the quotes so that we could see how the costs changed based on how much you are willing to pay towards a health insurance claim if you need to make one. We also researched how much the cost of private health insurance changes when you go from a very basic health insurance cover to one that gives you an intermediate level of cover and finally to one that provides comprehensive cover. We chose quotes that included cancer cover wherever this was possible.
Once we found the best-priced health insurance quotes based on these ranges we worked out the average cost of health insurance by age and have detailed this below.
Average cost of private health insurance
|Average cost of private health insurance
|25 years old
|35 years old
|45 years old
|55 years old
Average costs are based on health insurance quotes for non-smokers living in the west midlands
In many cases, the cost of private health insurance did not change much between an excess of £250 to £500 so getting the best value for money when searching for private medical insurance is not straight forward.
The quotes above are based on the average cost across multiple providers and so to guarantee the best price for your own circumstances you should speak to an independent specialist* who can search the whole of the market on your behalf. Not only can they guarantee to find you the best quote, but they can also help with the application process and even provide guidance on how to reduce the cost of private health insurance by making smart choices and tailoring the cover options. See the next section for more details.
Is private health insurance worth the cost?
Only you can answer that question. You would need to weigh up your reasons for considering the cover which may include how getting quick access to medical care could protect your personal circumstances. If you are happy with the standard of care provided by the NHS and are happy to wait to receive treatment then there would be no need to purchase health insurance.
Having access to private medical care through private health insurance could protect you from prolonged time off work and the impact this could have on your earnings.
For many people, children's private health insurance is key as they may be happy to wait for treatment as adults but perhaps less comfortable with the idea of struggling to get fast and easy access to treatment for their children.
By buying private health insurance you are effectively skipping the queue and gaining quick access to private medical staff and facilities as well as the potential to receive alternative drugs and treatment. You should always check with a health insurance broker if you have an existing medical condition as some health insurance providers may include cover for it while others may exclude claims for it. You'll find information about how to arrange this later in the article.
Private health insurance comes at a cost however and is usually the key factor for most when determining whether it is worth purchasing. It can be sensible to weigh up the potential cost of time off work if you were to fall ill and find yourself waiting for medical referrals and treatment through the NHS.
Take, for instance, that the statutory NHS waiting time for knee replacement surgery is 18 weeks but at the time of writing, reports suggest that over 2 million patients are waiting longer than the statutory waiting time. This can be costly for many and can have a great impact on your daily life and is particularly costly for self-employed people. We give some examples of how much health insurance costs later in this article.
What can impact the cost of private health insurance?
The cost of health insurance is impacted by multiple factors and so it is important that you understand what these factors are and more importantly, how you can use this information to determine the cost of private health insurance as well as how to cut down the cost of your premiums.
Factors that can impact the cost of your health insurance premiums are:
- the insurance company you choose
- the type of cover you apply for (basic, intermediate or comprehensive)
- the excess you choose
- your age
- your medical history
- your claims history
- whether you smoke
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How to buy the cheapest and best health insurance policy
It is likely that when it comes to health insurance providers, you will have heard of the likes of Axa Health, Bupa and Vitality, but there are many other lesser-known companies that provide excellent private health insurance and so we would always recommend that you do a comprehensive comparison before you commit to one insurer. With so many health insurance companies to choose from, people often make the mistake of going with the company that comes up first on a comparison site search, however, in many cases, this can be a costly mistake.
The best way to buy private health insurance is to speak to a specialist adviser as they will be able to find you the best policy for your specific priorities.
For example, you can provide an independent specialist with your budget amount and they will shop around to find you the most comprehensive cover to fit that budget. If you wish to cover your children under your private health insurance, they will make recommendations that are more likely to give your children a good level of cover at the best cost too. Choices such as hospital lists can significantly reduce the monthly premiums for your private health insurance and a health insurance adviser will explain which choices will save you money without limiting the access to private healthcare you desire.
We have partnered with one of the UK's leading private health insurance comparison specialists* in order to provide you with not just the cheapest, but the most comprehensive types of insurance to suit your budget and priorities.
You will receive £100 cashback – the offer ends on 31 April 2024. All you need to get started is to click on Get private health insurance quote*. You can choose to build your own quote or alternatively request that an adviser calls you back.
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 – Howden Life & Health