Which is the best private health insurance in the UK?

7 min Read Published: 11 Apr 2024

 

In this article, we take a look at private health insurance (sometimes referred to as private medical insurance) explaining what we like and what we don't like about the cover.

Choosing the best private health insurance can be confusing so we have reviewed and compared a number of the best health insurers in the UK, showing you the best and most comprehensive private health insurance cover. We also explain how to get £100 cashback* when you take out a new private health insurance policy, as well as the best way to buy health insurance and guarantee to get the best cover. (Offer ends 30th April 2024)

 

What is private health insurance?

 

Put simply, private health insurance (which is also referred to as private medical insurance or PMI) is a type of insurance that will pay for private medical treatment if you fall ill. It is more complex than that however as there are many options to consider, including a multitude of different levels and types of cover, so it is worth doing your research before you commit to a particular plan or provider. Check out our article "Is private health insurance worth it" for more information about what private health insurance covers and what types of cover are available.

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How to compare the best UK health insurance policies

The best way to compare private health insurance policies is to speak to an independent health insurance specialist* as comparing private health insurance quotes is tricky, due to the number of different types of policies available. An independent specialist will be able to compare every policy available and provide practical advice based on your own unique circumstances. You'll be able to compare like-for-like policies and know exactly what patient treatments and other benefits you are covered for. While you can use an online comparison tool to get a quote and an idea of prices, it is extremely tricky to compare policies side-by-side and ensure that they are offering the same benefits. Cancer care, outpatient and inpatient treatment, virtual GP access as well as diagnostic testing are a few of the benefits that are high on the wish list for people buying health insurance but not all private medical insurers include these benefits as standard. Even benefits such as diagnostic testing may vary where some cover MRI, CT and PET scans while others may not so it is worthwhile taking the time to understand what is and is not covered. 

Which are the best UK private healthcare providers

It is not for us to say who is the best private health insurance provider as it depends on what type of cover you need and want. So the best health insurance provider will be different depending on who you are, your personal health history and what you require. Many policies offer optional extras which may increase the cost of the cover while others include these as standard - a key point worth considering. 

Below we have listed 5 of the biggest private health insurance providers and picked out what we like and what we don't like about each.  

Bupa Health Insurance

What we like

Cover includes therapies and mental health cover as standard

Unlimited virtual private GP appointments 

Bupa is the UK's largest health insurance company

Only pay for the first child you add to your policy

Owns many private hospitals and clinics

Aims to cover customers from diagnosis to treatment

5-star rating from independent industry reviewer Defaqto

What we don't like

Comprehensive cover can be relatively expensive

 

Vitality Health Insurance (formerly Pru Health)

What we like

One of the most 'visible' health insurance brands. Often seen advertising football, netball and cricket on the TV

Rewards for active and healthy living including cashback, discounted gym membership, free cinema tickets and free Caffe Nero coffee

Access to private GPs via video chat

5-star rating from independent industry reviewer Defaqto

What we don't like

Rewards are regularly reviewed and can be removed without warning

 

Axa Health Insurance

What we like

24-hour claims helpline with access to trained nurses and councillors 

Offers no claims discounts and rewards to keep renewal costs low

Offers a 6-week clause that allows you the chance to get treated on the NHS initially - helping to bring down the cost of the cover 

Hospital list includes top London hospitals

5-star rating from independent industry reviewer Defaqto

What we don't like

Reviews from customers suggest that customer service and wait times could be improved

 

Aviva Health Insurance

What we like

Global insurance brand with over 30 million customers worldwide

24-hour GP helpline

Free cover for younger children if you take out cover for you and your eldest child

Offers a 6-week clause that allows you the chance to get treated on the NHS initially - helping to bring down the cost of the cover

5-star rating from independent industry reviewer Defaqto

What we don't like

Comprehensive cover can be relatively expensive

 

The Exeter

What we like

Unlimited in-patient and day-patient treatment

Access to the 'Health Wise' app - GP's on-demand, second medical opinion, mental health support

Complete cancer treatment cover

Post-operative physiotherapy provided

No claims discount

5-star rating from independent industry reviewer Defaqto

What we don't like

The website is fairly basic and is not quite up to the same standard as the bigger providers

 

WPA Health Insurance

What we like

Low-cost core cover offering 

Cash benefits if being treated by the NHS

Multi-family cover

Flexible co-payment options

What we don't like

None of the policies are 5-star rated by independent industry reviewer Defaqto

 

Benenden Health Insurance

What we like

Low-cost 

Fixed cost regardless of claims history

24-hour mental health helpline 

What we don't like

Does not cover you if you can get treatment on the NHS

Have to wait 6 months to be fully covered

 

Which health insurance company is best for price?

Here we have listed the price for health insurance for individuals aged 30, 40 or 50 years old across some of the main private health insurance providers.

The policy prices are not compared on a like-for-like basis as some will cover more benefits as standard than others. You should speak to a specialist health insurance adviser* to understand which health insurance policy will provide you with the best value for money. 

As far as possible, we have gathered quotes for a basic version of each provider's health insurance cover and selected options for outpatient cover and hospital lists to give the lowest price. Wherever possible we have chosen a £250 excess and not included any additional cover options where a provider does not include these as standard. 

Health insurance cost comparison

Health insurance provider Monthly cost for a 30-year-old¹ Monthly cost for a 40-year-old¹ Monthly cost for a 50-year-old¹
Aviva £44.52 £47.82 £56.53
AXA £45.21 £56.36 £73.59
Benenden £15.50 £15.50 £15.50
Bupa £36.47 £49.35 £70.80
The Exeter £36.22 £46.11 £59.66
Vitality £44.00 £44.01 £61.02
WPA £37.70 £51.27 £72.51

¹ Monthly premiums are based on a non-smoker person but options included by each insurer will vary - all quotes are correct as of 11th April 2024

What is the best way to buy private health insurance?

Step 1 - Work out your budget

Firstly, work out your budget. Once you know how much you are willing to spend you can start working out the type of cover that is affordable. There is no point in buying private health insurance cover that is beyond your budget as it is likely that you will cancel it, leaving you with no cover should you ever need to claim. 

Step 2 - Prioritise

Would you prefer to pay a higher premium in return for a lower excess or would you be better off paying lower premiums in the knowledge that you may have to pay a high excess fee come claim time? Is getting treated locally important to you? Do you place higher importance on being diagnosed quickly or maybe it is more important for you to simply receive treatment? Do you have a medical history that will be excluded by some private health insurance companies? All of your decisions will impact the potential premium that you will pay and so it is important to know where your priorities lie or at least which parts of the cover are less important to you.

Step 3 - Shop around

Do your research and shop around. Private health insurance is a competitive market and so don't take the first price that you are quoted. Frustratingly, private health insurance is difficult to compare like-for-like policies due to the different types of cover available and often, the jargon used to describe the cover by different insurance companies but this brings us onto step 4....

Step 4 - Speak to an expert

Simply shopping around and comparing policies, using online comparison sites, will only get you so far. Private health insurance is a complex product and it is extremely difficult to compare policies. There are insurance brokers that provide independent, impartial advice and whose job it is to compare private medical insurance policies* and tailor the cover to your own specific needs and so you should get advice before you commit to buying a policy through a price comparison site. The cost of private health insurance will vary with how you select the various options within your cover and guidance on what to include can be invaluable. We have partnered with a leading health insurance  will be able to provide you with a free comparison quote* and answer any questions you may have about the cover, with no obligation to take things further. Additionally, you'll receive £100 cashback if you take out a new private healthcare policy. Offer ends 30th April 2024.

Further reading

You may wish to check out some of our other health insurance articles:

 

 

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