Comparing Private Health Insurance In The UK

27-02-2021

Health Insurance pays for private medical treatment, letting you skip NHS waiting lists and get access to healthcare exactly when you need it.

However, it’s a complex product. So how do you compare Health Insurance policies and providers to find the best cover?

The dropdown menu above offers access to our independent expert reviews of each provider so you can compare them based on coverage.

You can also read our selection of Private Health Insurance guides to get answers to some of the questions our clients most commonly ask.

If you are ready to compare quotes our online tool will give you pricing from all the best UK insurers including Aviva, AXA and Bupa 🧐.

Important Things To Consider When Comparing Health Insurance

Your Level of Cover

All medical care splits into:

  • Inpatient treatment
    All care requiring a hospital bed for at least one night, typically after major surgery.
  • Day-patient treatment
    All care where you need a hospital bed but just for the day, usually after a minor surgical procedure.
  • Outpatient treatment
    Any treatment / appointments which don’t need a hospital bed, for example consultations, scans, tests, physiotherapy etc.

All Private Health Insurance covers inpatient treatment (and almost always day-patient treatment) as standard. Insurers sometimes refer to this as ‘core cover’.

Outpatient treatment, however, is an optional extra. You add it to the policy for an extra premium. A policy without outpatient cover is the cheapest option and is therefore referred to as low-cost Health Insurance.

At the other end of the scale is comprehensive Health Insurance, which pays for all eligible inpatient and outpatient treatment in full.

Read more in our guide to the difference between inpatient and outpatient treatment.

Know Your Exclusions

Health Insurance doesn’t cover all your medical needs.

For example, it only treats acute conditions, which are those that pass with time and treatment. It excludes chronic conditions, which are with you for life as doctors cannot cure them, only manage them.

Other common exclusions include:

  • Pre-existing conditions
  • Normal pregnancy and childbirth
  • Cosmetic / weight loss treatment
  • Kidney dialysis
  • Alcohol / substance abuse
  • Infertility treatment.

Each insurer will have its own list of exclusions — compare them carefully to ensure you’re getting the best cover.

Rob Harvey, Head of Protection Advice at Drewberry

It is important to recognise that Private Medical Insurance is designed to work in tandem with the NHS.

PMI will cover acute conditions but there is no better place than the NHS for chronic conditions and emergencies.

Robert Harvey
Head of Health & Protection Advice

Know What The Best Health Insurance Will Cover

The best UK Health Insurance is comprehensive cover and pays for all eligible inpatient and outpatient treatment in full.

You can also add various optional extras to your policy for an extra premium to broaden coverage, such as:

  • Mental Health cover
  • Routine dental and optical cover
  • Therapies cover (offering physiotherapy or osteopathy, for example) if not already included in your policy.

The best Health Insurance provider for you will depend on your needs and circumstances.

Why Expert Advice Matters

For instance some insurers are better placed to cover individuals in certain occupations such as doctors or contractors where others are better priced based on location or age. If you are fit and healthy there are some insurers that offer discounts based on how often you exercise.

When helping clients it is important to understand exactly who you are and what matters to you. Our team have years of experience helping find individuals and businesses the most appropriate cover for them at the best premium.

If you need help in this area don’t hesitate to pop us a call on 02074425880 or email help@drewberry.co.uk.

Know The Free Additional Benefits You Can Access

Most providers offer additional benefits for free with their policies. Common free extras include:

  • Digital GP services, offering access to a GP via video or telephone
  • Parent accommodation costs if a child the policy covers requires inpatient hospital care
  • Helplines staffed by medical professionals for assistance with minor medical complaints
  • Stress counselling helplines
  • Gym discounts
  • A cash benefit for each night you spend in an NHS hospital having treatment for a condition your policy would have covered.

Compare providers to see which ones are offering the best additional benefits, as this can vary significantly from insurer to insurer.

We are seeing clients get a huge amount of value from the `Virtual GP and prescription services. It allows you to have a consultation from the comfort of your own home being seen within hours rather than booking way in advance.

Know Where You Can Buy Health Insurance

You have two options to buy Private Health Insurance: You can go direct to the insurer or use an independent insurance adviser such as ourselves.

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

Going Direct

Buying direct from an insurer is a non-advised sale. You personally make the decision to buy cover from that particular insurer, so there’s no financial protection if the policy is inappropriate.

Furthermore, this often involves more work. For example, you need to approach every insurer and compare Health Insurance quotes from all of them to find the best deal.

Once you’ve got the premiums, you’ll also need to compare policy documents, including all the medical and insurance jargon, to work out which plan offers the best coverage.

Getting Independent Financial Advice

Alternatively, an independent Health Insurance expert, such as one of the team at Drewberry, can do all the heavy lifting. We do all the work comparing insurers and policy documents to find you the best cover.

Perhaps most importantly, this is an advised sale. If an adviser’s advice isn’t appropriate and the policy isn’t suitable, you have financial protection as the responsibility for arranging it is with the adviser.

Comparing The Best UK Health Insurance Providers

Being an independent insurance broker we compare Private Medical Insurance policies from every leading UK insurer. While there are some smaller, more specialised insurers, the core of the market is made up of the following six providers:

Aviva

Aviva’s Health Insurance policy is known as Aviva Healthier Solutions.

It comes with outpatient cover as standard, but you can remove it entirely or limit it to £500 or £1,000 per policy year to reduce premiums.

Key Comparison Points

  • 24 / 7 digital GP appointments via Aviva Digital GP
  • 24 / 7 stress counselling helpline
  • A maximum of £2,000 or your policy’s outpatient limit towards GP-referred outpatient mental health treatment as standard
  • Free cover for younger children once you’ve added your oldest child to the policy
  • Access to some of the UK’s leading hospital networks thanks to Aviva’s partnership with the likes of Spire, Nuffield Health and BMI.

AXA Health

AXA’s main Health Insurance policy is known as AXA Personal Health.

AXA doesn’t include most outpatient treatment as standard. You can add either limited or full cover to your policy for an additional premium.

Key Comparison Points

  • Up to five 24 / 7 remote GP appointments via Doctor@Hand when you choose the Extended Cover option
  • Fast-track physiotherapy access via AXA Working Body, letting you skip GP referrals for physiotherapy
  • 24 / 7 helpline staffed by trained nurses and counsellors for more minor medical issues
  • Access to a helpline staffed by cardiac and cancer nurses if you’re diagnosed with cancer or a heart condition
  • Availability of proton beam therapy to treat certain cancers in limited circumstances when you choose Comprehensive Cancer Cover.

Bupa

Bupa’s main Private Health Insurance plan is Bupa By You.

Bupa divides its main By You policy into comprehensive cover (its Comprehensive plan) and basic cover (its Treatment & Care plan). You choose one or the other depending on your needs.

Comprehensive cover includes both inpatient and outpatient cover as standard, while Treatment & Care mostly only offers inpatient care.

Key Comparison Points

  • Up to 28 days of inpatient psychiatric treatment as standard
  • 24 / 7 remote GP access via Babylon Digital GP
  • Direct Access fast-track service for cancer, mental health and musculoskeletal symptoms
  • Anytime HealthLine, a 24 / 7 telephone helpline staffed by trained nurses
  • Treatment in Bupa’s large network of its own private hospitals

A choice of cancer coverage — choose from:

  • Full cover for all cancer treatment
  • NHS Cancer Cover Plus, which only pays for cancer care if the NHS doesn’t offer a particular treatment
  • No cancer cover, which means you use the NHS for all cancer care.

The Exeter

The Exeter’s Health Insurance offering is known as Health+.

It offers little outpatient cover as standard. You can, however, add this to your policy for an additional premium.

Key Comparison Points

  • Digital GP service
  • Access to its SmartWise app, which as well as managing the digital GP appointments, also offers second medical opinion consultations, video physiotherapy seesions and video counselling sessions
  • Access to speech therapy if you opt for the Therapies optional extra, which many providers other exclude
  • Parental accommodation if a child under 18 the policy covers is having inpatient hospital treatment. Cover for this until your child is 18 is the oldest cut-off age on the market.

Freedom Health

Freedom Health’s main Health Insurance policy is called Freedom Elite.

This policy covers all eligible inpatient treatment as standard, with the option to add outpatient care for an additional premium.

Key Comparison Points

  • 24 / 7 digital GP access via its GP24 smartphone app
  • 2 year fixed premium option, so your premium won’t go up in your second year even if you claim in your first year
  • Free cover for younger children after you’ve paid to add your oldest child to the policy
  • Physiotherapy as standard when you add outpatient cover, rather than as part of a separate therapies benefit for a further additional premium
  • 45 days of inpatient psychiatric care if you choose its mental health option, one of the longest periods of inpatient treatment on the market
  • A premium discount of 6% if you choose to pay your premiums annually rather than monthly.

Vitality

Vitality’s Health Insurance policy is known as Vitality Personal Healthcare. It’s a fairly unique policy, offering discounts and rewards if you engage in healthy living activities.

It covers inpatient treatment in full, with the option to add outpatient care for an additional premium.

Key Comparison Points

  • Digital GP service
  • Face-to-face private GP service for an upfront £20 payment if you have the London Care hospital list
  • Vitality Care, offering a team of specialist doctors and nurses for ongoing complex claims such as cancer or mental health concerns
  • Access to a set number of talking therapy sessions for mental health issues (e.g. counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy) as standard
  • Physiotherapy as standard when you add outpatient cover to your policy rather than as part of a separate therapies benefit for a further additional premium
  • Vitality points and rewards, offering discounts on fitness trackers which you can then use to track your exercise to gain rewards such as high street discounts and lower premiums the following policy year
  • Access to lifestyle surgery such as breast reduction or weight loss procedures subject to strict eligibility criteria and you paying 25% of the cost upfront.

Making Sure You Get The Best Cover

Given our expertise we know when some of the smaller niche providers maybe more appropriate for your circumstances.

As part of our fee-free service we provide you with a recommendation report which compares prices and policy details of all the best options given your circumstances. It enables you to make an informed decision knowing you have received expert advice.

If you want to get an indication of pricing before speaking to an adviser you can compare instant online quotes from all the top UK insurers here →

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Comparing The Cost Of Health Insurance In 2021

Insurers base the cost of Health Insurance on various personal factors, such as your age and smoker status.

They’ll also price premiums on policy factors, such as your excess and the options you choose.

It’s therefore difficult to work out exactly how much your premiums will be without taking into account your circumstances.

However, for a rough idea of premiums, we’ve laid out a comparison of Health Insurance quotes in the table below. To calculate the premiums, we’ve assumed that the individual is:

  • In good health
  • A non-smoker
  • Willing to pay a £250 excess
  • Based in the same postcode as the advisers in our Brighton office.

25 Years Old

35 Years Old

45 Years Old

Basic Policy (No Outpatient Cover)

£34.29

£41.28

£48.02

Mid-Range Policy (Limited Outpatient Cover)

£41.71

£53.19

£66.71

Comprehensive Policy (Unlimited Outpatient Cover)

£54.34

£66.36

£84.41

Please bear in mind this is only an indication of cost and your own premiums will be heavily dependent on your personal circumstances and the options you select.

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Private Health Insurance Terms Explained

  • Cancer Treatment and Care

    Private cancer care can include many world-leading treatments and therapies the NHS may not yet cover due to cost. All insurers cover it as standard. It includes:

    • Cancer surgery
    • Chemotherapy
    • Radiotherapy
    • Biological / hormone therapies
    • Stem cell / bone marrow transplants.

    Depending on your provider, you may also get access to:

    • Bone-strengthening drugs (e.g. bisphosphonates)
    • Chemotherapy at home if clinically appropriate
    • Reconstruction surgery (for example after a mastectomy)
    • Cash towards wigs and prostheses you need as a result of cancer treatment
    • Help with the costs of palliative care if your cancer cannot be cured.

    IMPORTANT NOTICE
    Certain insurers don’t cover cancer if you’ve previously had it before buying cover. If that applies to you, the insurer requires you to use the NHS for cancer care. Your Health Insurance only kicks in if the NHS won’t fund a licensed treatment or procedure.

  • Psychiatric Cover

    Few insurers offer psychiatric cover as standard. Instead, mental health treatment is almost always an optional extra for an additional premium.

    Mental health treatment commonly includes:

    • Inpatient care covering the costs of a stay in a psychiatric hospital
    • Outpatient appointments with a psychologist, psychiatrist or cognitive behavioural therapist.
  • Hospital List

    The hospital list details the private facilities you can have treatment in.

    Most insurers offer ‘tiers’ of hospitals ranging from a list of cheaper facilities or private wards in NHS hospitals to a nationwide / Central London hospital list entitling you to treatment in some of the best private facilities in the country.

    The more comprehensive your hospital list, the higher your premiums.

  • Medical Underwriting Options

    Medical underwriting determines what your policy covers you for based on your pre-existing medical history.

    You have two main options as an individual comparing Private Health Insurance: Full medical underwriting and moratorium underwriting.

    Full medical underwriting means you disclose your entire medical history upfront when you take out cover. With moratorium underwriting, the insurer only looks at your medical history when you claim.

    Read more on the difference between full medical underwriting and moratorium underwriting, including which might be best for you, here.

  • Excess Options

    Your Health Insurance excess is the amount you pay upfront towards your treatment. The higher your excess, the lower your premiums.

    Excesses start at zero, meaning the insurer will pay the full bill if you need treatment, and run all the way up to £5,000 depending on your insurer and the treatment you need.

  • 6 Week NHS Wait

    The 6 week NHS wait option is something you can add to some policies to lower premiums.

    If you add it, your policy only pays for private inpatient treatment if the NHS wait for the inpatient procedure you require is longer than 6 weeks. If it’s shorter than 6 weeks, the NHS treats you instead.

  • Optional Add-Ons

    These are options you can add to your Health Insurance for an additional premium. Common options include:

    • Psychiatric treatment (see above)
    • Therapies cover (for example physiotherapy, osteopathy and chiropractic therapy)
    • Routine dental and optical cover, which usually offers cashback for checkups at your dentist or optician and also offers money towards treatments such as fillings or new glasses.
  • No Claims Discount

    Many insurers offer a tiered no claims discount system, whereby if you go a year without claiming you get a discount on your premiums the following year, up to a maximum percentage.

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Compare Health Insurance Quotes & Expert Advice

Each insurer has its own unique policy, and each policy offers variations in cover and additional benefits. It can therefore become a bit of a minefield if you don’t have the right tools and expertise to properly compare Health Insurance.

At Drewberry, we have a team of experts to make surely you get a proper Private Medical Insurance comparison and make the right decision when it comes to your cover.

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.

For help and fee-free advice, simply give us a call on 02074425880 or email help@drewberry.co.uk.

I’ve held a policy with Drewberry for several years now. They are always friendly, insightful and offer great service.

Dan Pettitt
13/01/2021
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