What Is The Best Health Insurance In The UK?

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13-01-2021

Private Medical Insurance provides you with access to private healthcare facilities. It lets you skip lengthy NHS waiting lists and get treatment exactly when you need it the most.

  • Access new drugs and novel treatments that may not yet be available on the NHS
  • Private hospitals usually have superior facilities, e.g. private, ensuite rooms and round-the-clock visiting hours
  • Treatment is all paid for by your insurer (less any excess).

There are a range of insurers and plans available, each with their own options and tiers of cover. This can make it difficult to find the best insurance unless you really understand the market and all its complexities.

How Do I Get the Best Coverage?

To get the best coverage, you must compare a number of key factors relating to various providers and policies. For example, you’ll want to examine:

  • The insurer
    Take a look at the insurer’s reputation, reviews and claims process.
  • Additional benefits
    Look beyond the core coverage of paying for private medical care. Take into account additional benefits the insurer offers with the cover, for example a cash benefit if you opt to have NHS inpatient care for a condition the policy covers rather using your insurance.
  • Policy options
    Different from additional benefits, which come with Health Insurance as standard, policy options are coverage you can add or remove from your plan to make it more or less comprehensive. For example, this might include therapies cover (e.g. physiotherapy) or mental health care.
  • Hospital list
    Insurers arrange their hospital lists in tiers. The best cover involves the top tier of hospitals, which includes world-leading private facilities in Central London.
  • Medical underwriting options
    You choose how your insurer underwrites your policy, which affects the conditions you can claim for based on your pre-existing medical history. Which underwriting is best for you depends on your circumstances (see below).

What Do Top UK Health Insurance Policies Cover?

All medical care, no matter whether it’s NHS or private, involves either inpatient or outpatient treatment.

  • Inpatient Treatment
    All medical care where you need a hospital bed overnight. This is usually after surgery. It also includes day-patient treatment, where you need a hospital bed but just for the day, typically after a more minor procedure.
  • Outpatient Treatment
    Involves all medical care where you don’t need a hospital bed. It includes diagnostic tests and scans, consultations and treatment such as physiotherapy.

All Health Insurance covers inpatient treatment as standard. It’s your level of outpatient cover which determines how comprehensive your Health Insurance is. Insurers break down policies by level of outpatient care like so:

  • Basic Health Insurance
    Only pays for inpatient care and doesn’t offer any outpatient care at all.
  • Mid-Range Cover
    Covers some outpatient treatment up to a set monetary limit per year. The insurer offers a range of choices for this limit, such as £500, £1,000 or £1,500 per year.
  • Comprehensive Health Insurance
    The best Health Insurance, comprehensive cover pays for all eligible inpatient and outpatient care in full.

The more outpatient cover your policy provides, the better the medical insurance but the higher your premiums will be .

Do I Need Outpatient Cover?

You don’t have to add outpatient cover. As mentioned, having little or no outpatient cover means your premiums will be lower. However, the top Health Insurance policies all include at least some level of outpatient cover.

Without it, you have to rely on the NHS for outpatient tests and scans. This generally slows up your access to private inpatient care under your Health Insurance policy.

Which Conditions Are Eligible for Private Healthcare?

Even the best private policies only cover acute conditions. These are conditions that pass with time and medical care, such as the need for a joint replacement or cataract removal.

No UK Health Insurance policy covers chronic conditions. These are illnesses which don’t pass with time and medical care. Doctors can only manage them, not cure them — they include asthma and diabetes.

Complete 2021 guide to the best private medical insurance in the UK

You’ll continue to use the NHS for ongoing management of chronic conditions, even with the most comprehensive Health Insurance on the market.

Are There Any Exclusions?

As well as chronic conditions, there are also general exclusions you’ll find with most policies. These include:

  • Emergency care
  • Normal pregnancy
  • Kidney dialysis
  • HIV / AIDS
  • Screening, monitoring and preventative procedures (for example mammograms)
  • Cosmetic surgery
  • Weight loss treatment.
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How Much Does the Best Health Insurance Cost?

Premiums vary depending on your circumstances. To price your policy, an insurer looks at your:

  • Age
  • Location
  • Smoker status
  • Health and pre-existing medical history.

The cost of Health Insurance also depends on the policy options you choose. Ultimately, the more comprehensive Health Insurance becomes, the higher premiums will be.

For example, choosing add-ons such as psychiatric care or opting to access the best private hospitals in Central London will bump up the cost of cover.

Example Premiums

To compare Health Insurance premiums in the table below, we’ve assumed each individual is:

  • In good health
  • A non-smoker
  • Looking for comprehensive Medical Insurance which covers inpatient and outpatient treatment in full
  • Looking for a comprehensive nationwide hospital list
  • Willing to pay a £250 excess upfront towards the cost of private medical treatment
  • Wanting full cover for mental healthcare
  • Looking for extended cancer cover.

Single Applicant

30 Year Old

£57.64 per month

40 Year Old

£73.08 per month

50 Year Old

£97.50 per month

40-Year-Old Couple

£136.10 per month

Family Cover

Parents Age 35, Children Age 13 and 11

£165.06 per month

What Are the Best Additional Policy Options?

While a minority of insurers and policies include the below options as standard, for the most part you’ll need to add these to your plan for an additional premium to achieve more comprehensive coverage.

Extended Cancer Coverage

All Health Insurance pays for cancer treatment as standard. This includes cutting-edge drugs, treatments and procedures the NHS may not yet offer due to cost.

However, some insurers offer an option to extend cancer coverage for an extra premium. This might include paying for a longer periods of biological or hormone therapies, for instance, or covering the cost of scalp cooling to reduce hair loss from chemotherapy.

It’s worth noting that the best insurers offer this as standard, so check your policy’s cancer coverage carefully.

Therapies Cover

Therapies cover includes a range of treatments, such as:

  • Physiotherapy
  • Osteopathy
  • Chiropractic treatment
  • Acupuncture.

Some insurers cover podiatry and chiropody also, while others even provide access to homeopathy.

All insurers and polices treat therapies cover differently. The three main ways insurers treat therapies cover:

  • Include them as standard as part of outpatient care
  • Split physiotherapy out from other therapies, offering physiotherapy as part of outpatient cover but the rest of the therapy options only under additional therapies cover
  • Require you to add all therapies to your policy for an additional premium.

The best plans include a range of therapies, getting you past treatment for aches, pains and other concerns.

Mental Health Treatment

Psychiatric / mental healthcare pays for private inpatient and outpatient treatment for mental health problems. It involves a set number of days as an inpatient and a set number of outpatient appointments with psychologists and psychiatrists etc.

There is one major insurer that offers it as standard. However, for the rest of the market it’s an optional extra for an additional premium.

Dental & Optical Care

Private Health Insurance usually only offers limited dental and optical cover.

With dental treatment, insurers usually only provide care for dental emergencies, such as if you’ve knocked out a tooth, or surgical procedures, such as extracting impacted wisdom teeth. Regarding optical care, Health Insurance typically only offers surgical procedures, such as cataract removal.

This leaves out routine dental and optical care, such as fillings, checkups, scaling and polishing, eye tests and the cost of new glasses.

However, you can add this to your policy for an extra premium with routine dental and optical care. If you do, the insurer pays you a fixed monetary benefit per treatment / checkup / pair of glasses etc. per policy year.

While it won’t cover the cost of care in full as with other health conditions, it does provide you with a cash refund towards your treatment after you’ve settled the bill with your dentist / optician.

Which Is The Best Medical Underwriting?

There are two options available for personal Health Insurance: moratorium underwriting and full medical underwriting (FMU).

Moratorium Underwriting

The most common form of underwriting. When an insurer underwrites you on a moratorium basis, it automatically excludes any medical condition you’ve had advice, treatment or medication for in the past 5 years.

This is usually on a 2 year rolling moratorium basis. Here, the insurer will consider any claims for medical conditions that you suffered in the 5 years before your policy started once you’e served  at least 2 years on the policy without having any medical attention for that condition.

Full Medical Underwriting

Full medical underwriting (FMU) examines your entire medical history before you take out the policy. It then excludes all pre-existing conditions.

This means you know exactly what you are and aren’t covered for from the start. However, there’s usually very little opportunity to get exclusions removed.

Conditions you had more than 5 years ago aren’t generally taken into account when insurers underwrite you on a moratorium basis. However, they will most likely be examined when an insurer underwrites you on an FMU basis.

Which Should I Choose?

When you compare the two options, it all boils down to your medical history.

If you’ve had a minor medical condition in the past then an insurer might decide not to exclude it on an FMU basis once they’ve seen the medical evidence. This won’t likely be the case on a moratorium basis.

Ultimately, whether FMU is better than a moratorium really depends on you and your medical history. It is critical to get this right, so if you need some help please don’t hesitate to call us on 02074425880.

Who Are The Top 5 UK Private Health Insurance Providers?

The UK has five major Health Insurance providers to compare. It is vitally important to compare quotes from the majority of providers when considering your options as each has their own unique underwriting and pricing philosophy.

  • Aviva

    Aviva won the Best Individual PMI Provider Awards at the Health Insurance & Protection Awards 2019. Also, its Health Insurance policy is rated 5 out of 5 stars by Defaqto (an independent reviewer of financial products).

    As well as being the UK’s largest insurance company, Aviva is also the sixth-biggest insurer globally. It has around 33 million customers across 16 countries worldwide.

  • AXA PPP

    AXA Health Insurance has more than 1,400 reviews on independent reviews website Trustpilot, rating it 4 starts out of 5.

    Its Private Health Insurance has a 5 star Defaqto rating and, in 2019, the company won the Best Direct Healthcare Provider at the Your Money Awards.

  • Bupa

    Today it is the UK’s largest provider of Private Medical Insurance by number of policyholders.

    Bupa has more than 7,000 reviews on independent reviews website Trustpilot, rating it as excellent with 4.4 stars out of 5.

  • The Exeter

    In 2019, the insurer won the Best Private Medical Insurance award at the Cover Customer Care Awards. At the same awards ceremony, it also won the Customer Service Above and Beyond award.

    The Exeter’s Health+ policy has a five star rating from independent financial services ratings firm Defaqto.

  • Vitality

    Vitality’s main Health Insurance policy, Personal Healthcare, has a 5 star Defaqto rating.

    Meanwhile, Vitality has more than 21,000 reviews on independent reviews website Trustpilot, rating it as excellent with 4.3 stars out of 5.

There are also a range of smaller providers which we have relationships with as well. These may be better placed to offer you cover depending on your circumstances, such as your employment status, occupation or medical history.

You can read are expert adviser reviews of all the leading insurers here. If you are ready to look at pricing you can use our online quote tool to calculate the cost of health insurance from all the leading UK health insurers 😎.

If you need help working out which insurer is the best for you, don’t hesitate to give us a call on 02074425880 or email help@drewberry.co.uk.

Top Free Additional Services

To stay competitive many of the leading providers are bolting on health and wellbeing services to proactively support their policyholders. These services include:

  • 24 / 7 Video GP Service
  • Nurse Staffed Medical Helpline
  • Mental Health Support Service
  • Healthy living and high street discounts

Maintaining The Best Cover

Your insurer will write to you annually when your Health Insurance is up for renewal.

Each year you may find your premiums rise slightly. This is typically down to medical inflation, which reflects the growing cost of everything from procedures, drugs and treatments to electricity to power the hospital and the food you’re served as an inpatient.

It’s vitally important you regularly review your policy and premiums to ensure you’re getting the best deal.

As part of our service we take care of this for all our clients. If we find you cheaper or better cover elsewhere, we’ll also be able to help you switch insurers.

What’s the Best Way to Set Up a Policy?

You have two ways to set up Health Insurance. You can either go directly to the insurer or take out cover through an intermediary, such as Drewberry.

It’s important to recognise the difference in these approaches as one provides much more protection than the other.

Going Direct To An Insurer

When you buy cover from an insurer directly, it’s a non-advised sale.

As you’ve personally made the decision to take out cover from that particular insurer, there’s no financial protection should the policy be inappropriate. The responsibility lies on your shoulders.

Furthermore, in many ways you’ll find going direct to the insurer is much more work, especially if you’re seeking the best option for your needs. For example, you’ll need to approach every insurer on the market and compare quotes from all of them to find the best deal.

Once you’ve got the quotes, you’ll then also have to compare various policy documents, including all the medical and insurance jargon, to work out which plan is going to offer you the best coverage.

Get Independent Financial Advice

Alternatively, you can use an independent Health Insurance expert, such as our expert team here at Drewberry.

This is especially important if you have pre-existing conditions, as an adviser may be able to use their market knowledge to secure superior coverage for that condition depending on your circumstances.

Moreover, an adviser will not only do all the heavy lifting for you, comparing quotes and working out which insurer offers the broadest coverage, but they’ll also offer an advised sale.

This means if their advice was not appropriate and the policy isn’t suitable, you’re financially protected as the responsibility for arranging it sits with the adviser.

Lastly, as expert advisers we do this day in, day out. That means we know the market, and all the policies and providers, inside out. We’re here to translate any complicated insurance and medical jargon for you if you have any questions.

Compare Health Insurance Quotes & Get Expert Advice

Finding the best Private Medical Insurance isn’t always easy. You may find yourself running up against budget restrictions, for example.

It’s possible to cut the cost of cover with certain policy options, such as increasing your excess. However, often lowering the cost of your policy can mean sacrificing the quality of your cover.

We can help you find a balance between affordability and coverage, getting you the best medical insurance for your needs and budget.

Why Speak to Us…

We started Drewberry™ because we were tired of being treated like a number.

We all deserve a first class service when it comes to issues as important as protecting our health. Below are just a few reasons why it makes sense to talk to us.

If you need help comparing the best private health insurance providers give us a call on 02074425880 or email help@drewberry.co.uk.

I had a great experience with Drewberry, they have a lot of knowledge and expertise with life insurance and income protection and were able to advise me and arrange suitable products. Highly recommend.

Lachlan Mellings
12/08/2020
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