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What's the best private health insurance in the UK?

What is the Best Private Health Insurance 2017?

Nothing is more important than the health of you your family, so it makes sense that many people are looking for the best Private Health Insurance to ensure they get they get the best care available.

While the NHS does a fantastic job, a recent funding squeeze and demographic pressures from an older, sicker population has seen waiting times increase. As a result, many people are considering Private Medical Insurance (PMI) to offer them access to prompt medical care, usually faster than would be available on the NHS.

The better PMI policies will cover inpatient and outpatient treatment in full, and will also often give access to new or novel treatments not yet available on the NHS due to funding pressures.

However, while Health Insurance specialises in treating acute conditions and getting you back on your feet promptly, not even the best Medical Insurance will cover emergency care and certain other conditions. These will remain better dealt with by the NHS.

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What makes the best UK Health Insurance?

There are a number of factors to consider when trying to find the best PMI however generally speaking the best type of cover is comprehensive health insurance. These are the most wide-reaching Health Insurance plans available and cover you for full inpatient and outpatient care for most acute conditions as well as a number of additional benefits.

What conditions are covered by PMI?

The top Private Health Insurance policies will also cover health problems such as psychiatric conditions as standard. For some providers of PMI, mental health cover is an optional extra at additional cost.

The best PMI will offer comprehensive health coverage for you and your family

How is Medical Insurance underwritten?

Medical underwriting is another area to consider when looking for the top PMI policies.

The best Medical Insurance is underwritten on a Medical History Disregarded (MHD) basis, which means none of your previous medical conditions are taken into account.

As a result, under MHD underwriting you’ll be covered for pre-existing conditions, assuming coverage for that condition is included in your policy wording.

However, MHD is only available for Business Health Insurance, and even then only for the largest schemes.

For personal PMI, your options when it comes to underwriting are are full medical underwriting (FMU) or moratorium.


What’s the best Medical Insurance for me?

While it’s easier to point to the most inclusive Health Insurance providers by examining the policy conditions and their Medical Insurance propositions, finding the top medical cover for you as an individual takes a lot more thought.

This is because it depends very much on your individual circumstances, such as if you have pre-existing health conditions or you’ve had a health condition in the past that has since subsided. This might affect the type of underwriting you choose.

Budget is also a factor when searching for the right PMI policy for you. The better Health Insurance policies will offer wide-ranging cover and include a number of conditions as standard that other insurers offer as optional extras, but this comes at a cost.

If you’re looking for cheaper Private Medical Insurance, then you may have to sacrifice the level of cover you receive. This might see you choosing a mid-range insurer, which will still offer a good level of cover but perhaps won’t include everything that would be covered on a better Health Insurance plan.

Health and Protection Specialist at Drewberry Nadeem Farid can help you find the best Health Insurance policy for you

You can also play with the benefits and cover you receive under the terms of the policy, such as increasing your excess or restricting your access to the priciest hospitals.

Some providers will also offer you a discount if you opt to get treatment on the NHS rather than going privately, providing the NHS waiting list for that procedure isn’t over a certain number of weeks. Speak to a Health Insurance adviser for more detail, as they’ll be able to help you navigate all the options available.

Nadeem Farid
Health & Protection Expert at Drewberry

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How to choose the best medical insurer

Compare Private Health Insurers to find better PMI cover

Different Health Insurance providers will offer different levels of cover as standard, and some may offer more cover than others. It’s important to be able to compare providers and their products to ensure you’re making an informed choice.


What is comprehensive medical insurance?

Comprehensive Health Insurance offers the top PMI cover available on the market today and will pay for full inpatient and outpatient treatment.

  • Outpatient cover – starts with a referral from your GP for a consultation where you don’t occupy a hospital bed. This might involve diagnostic tests such as blood tests, x-rays, MRI scans and so on. If necessary, you may then be referred for inpatient treatment, such as surgery.
  • Inpatient cover – this involves being admitted to hospital and occupying a hospital bed overnight, usually for surgery. Alternatively, minor procedures can be performed on a day patient basis, where you occupy a hospital bed for a period but leave the same day of the procedure.

You may also find that full medical insurance will cover you for more conditions as standard, such as psychiatric cover, whereas with less comprehensive policies you might have to pay for such cover as an optional extra.

The best health insurance covers outpatient treatment in full

The wide coverage of this type of PMI means it’s the most expensive, so some providers offer inpatient-only cover to make Health Insurance more affordable.

Inpatient-only cover is where you’re entitled to have inpatient treatment paid for by the insurer but outpatient cover, including all the diagnostic tests that might lead to inpatient treatment, will have to be taken care of on the NHS.


What’s the best Medical Insurance underwriting?

The best medical insurances plan are underwritten on a medical history disregarded (MHD) basis, but this is only available on the largest Corporate Health Insurance schemes. This involves a large group of employees being insured at once, so the risk of someone claiming is spread thinly across many people.

What's the best medical underwriting?

For smaller group and individual PMI policies, however, it’s not financially viable for insurers to offer MHD underwriting, as the risk pool is much more concentrated.

As such, for most people there are two main underwriting options available to them when they’re buying Private Health Insurance: fully medically underwritten (FMU) and moratorium underwriting.


Moratorium underwriting

Moratorium underwriting is the most common PMI underwriting. Here you don’t need to offer the insurer your past medical history, but any medical condition that you’ve sought advice or treatment for, or that has required medication, in the past five years will automatically be excluded from the policy if you try and claim in the future.

Many insurers use a two year rolling moratorium. Here, the insurer will consider any claims for medical conditions that you suffered in the five years running up to the date your policy started providing you’ve served two years on the policy without needing any medical attention for that condition. This encompasses either self-funded private or NHS treatment and includes mediation and advice.

Get the best corporate PMI by talking to Employee Benefits Consultant at Drewberry Emma Wilson

If you took out PMI in March 2017 with a two year rolling moratorium having suffered a back injury requiring physio in 2015, then you’d likely get a back exclusion on your Medical Insurance policy.

By March 2019, however, under a rolling moratorium then assuming you’ve sought no medical treatment for that back condition in those two years, the insurer may agree to reassess at cover it, although this will be at your PMI provider’s discretion.

Emma Wilson
Employee Benefits Consultant at Drewberry

Fixed moratorium underwriting

There is only one insurer left that uses a fixed moratorium underwriting: The Exeter for its individual PMI policies.

Fixed moratorium is a better underwriting than rolling moratorium as rolling moratorium requires no advice, treatment or medication for a two year period. The Exeter’s fixed moratorium, on the other hand, just requires you to serve two years on the policy for a condition to be covered, even if you’ve had treatment for that condition in those two years.


Fully medical underwriting

Full medical underwriting (FMU) will examine your medical history before you take out the policy.

While this will mean you know exactly what you will and won’t be covered for, there’s usually very little opportunity to get any exclusions arising from the underwriting process removed.

Which PMI is better, fully medically underwritten or underwriting on a moratorium basis?

Conditions occurring more than five years ago aren’t generally taken into account when insurers are underwriting you on a moratorium basis, they will most likely be examined when being underwritten on an FMU basis.

However, an insurer might not decide to exclude a minor condition on an FMU basis having seen the medical evidence from your GP, but this condition would likely be automatically excluded if it occurred in the five years leading up to the policy start date if the insurer was underwriting you on a moratorium basis.

Nadeem is the Health & Protection Expert at Drewberry and can help you find the best Private Medical Insurance for you and your family

Whether full medical underwriting is better than moratorium underwriting when it comes to buying Medical Insurance will depend on you and your medical history.

If you’ve had a minor 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 for moratorium underwriting. However, it can be difficult for you to remove any exclusions if you’re underwritten on an FMU basis, so it might be better to wait out a period on a moratorium basis.

Nadeem Farid
Health & Protection Expert at Drewberry

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Some PMI plans offer certain coverage as optional extra to their standard plans

What additional options will the best Health Insurance cover?

The better medical insurers will offer coverage across the board for all non-emergency acute conditions, subject to policy exclusions. This will usually be insurers’ premier PMI policies (they may offer mid-range plans that cover less). Some insurers will allow you to remove areas of cover from their standard or their premium plans to reduce the cost.

Other insurers will require you to add optional extras to your policy if you want the same depth of cover – it all depends on your provider.


Does Medical Insurance offer psychiatric cover?

Although it’s not often requested as a ‘must have’ for many policies, the better Private Health Insurance plans will cover psychiatric treatment.

The cover generally pays for up to 28 days inpatient or day patient treatment if you were to be diagnosed with a psychiatric condition such as schizophrenia or clinical depression. Some policies only cover outpatient treatment, however, such as appointments with cognitive behavioural therapists or psychologists, so it’s best to check your policy wording.

Only the top PMI providers offer psychiatric cover as standard – for most it’s an optional extra you’ll have to pay an additional premium to secure.

Better Medical Insurance policies will cover psychiatric conditions, says Health & Protection Expert at Drewberry Nadeem Farid

Psychiatric cover needs careful consideration as it’s a complicated field and a bit of a grey area for insurers.

While the better Health Insurance policies that do offer psychiatric cover will pay for treatment up to a certain point, after this period the provider may deem your illness to have become long-term and chronic and decline any further treatment.

Nadeem Farid
Health & Protection Expert at Drewberry


Therapies cover

The big four therapies or treatments covered by the better Medical Insurance providers are:

  • acupuncture
  • chiropractic treatment
  • osteopathy
  • physiotherapy.

These are likely to be required to treat a relatively minor condition, such as whiplash or a sports injury. They’ll only be provided by the best Health Insurance plans that offer a good level of outpatient cover. Alternatively if it is not included by default some insurers will allow you to add therapy cover to your plan for an additional cost.

top medical plans include physiotherapy

Some insurers will require you to buy additional cover before they’ll pay for these therapies; others will cover these but other therapies, such as podiatry or chiropody, will require additional cover.

The best Private Health Insurance policies cover these as standard, but that’s not always the case. If therapies cover is important for you and your family, a good adviser will know which providers cover these treatments on a standard policy and in the most cost-effective way.


Will Private Health Insurance pay for dental treatment?

This is the most popular Health Insurance add-on, as few Medical Insurance policies cover all dental treatment as standard.

Most policies will cover you for what’s known as ’emergency dental’, which would kick in to cover treatment if you had an accident that loosened or knocked out at tooth. Many plans also cover oral surgery, which would provide cover for wisdom tooth extraction in a hospital.

However, if you want cover for everyday dental treatment – such as checkups, fillings, crowns and cleaning – you’ll likely need to consider an add-on to your policy from one of the better Private Health Insurance providers.

It’s important to check what you’re covered for if you do opt for a Private Dental Insurance add-on, as many policies will only contribute towards the cost of treatment up to a set limit, rather than paying for it in full.


Am I covered for optical treatment?

While most PMI will cover you for treatment such as cataract surgery, few offer cover for routine optical appointments as standard. This will generally need to be an add-on to pay for everyday checkups and items such as glasses or contact lenses.

Health cash plans are sometimes more suited to pay for optical care than Health Insurance – these can run alongside your Private Medical Insurance policy. As well as offering cash towards optical cover, some people also use them to cover the excess on their PMI policies.

Check your policy wording to see just what’s covered if you do opt for optical cover as an add-on. Some insurers, while covering glasses and contact lenses, won’t cover extras such as contact lens solution.


Are there any exclusions from Private Health Insurance?

No matter how good your Private Medical Insurance is, not even the top Health Insurance providers will cover the long-term treatment and management of chronic conditions, such as diabetes, asthma or arthritis.

PMI also won’t cover:

  • emergency care
  • ‘normal’ pregnancy and childbirth (although certain complications may be covered)
  • professional sporting injuries
  • long-term kidney dialysis/kidney failure
  • fertility treatment/IVF
  • treatment for alcoholism/other substance abuse/dependency issues
  • treatment required as a result of war, contamination with biological/radioactive material etc.

It’s also very rare to find Medical Insurance offering access to primary care (i.e. private GPs), although the top Health Insurance providers do offer this, usually as an optional extra.

There are also exceptions to the rules, but these tend to be relatively rare and will be down to your insurer’s discretion. While no PMI provider will offer cosmetic surgery for purely aesthetic reasons, if you require a cosmetic reconstruction following an accident or disease such as cancer, your Health Insurance provider might pay for it.

Drewberry's team of experts are dedicated to helping you find the best PMI

This list only covers some of the most common exclusions you can expect with a good Health Insurance policy. It’s not a full list and what is and isn’t covered by your PMI policy will depend on your provider and the cover you buy.

For more information on any exclusions consult your policy wording or speak to your adviser.

Tom Conner
Director at Drewberry

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Who are the main Private Medical Insurance providers?

There has been some consolidation in the health insurance market in recent years. AXA PPP bought Simplyhealth in 2015, for example, just three years after Simplyhealth bought Groupama Healthcare in 2012.

However, the strongest PMI providers remain in the market and these are the biggest names that most people will be familiar with. Most still offer comprehensive Medical Insurance plans.

AXA PPP has expanded into PMI for individuals and is rapidly becoming one of the top UK Health Insurers

AXA PPP healthcare provider, based in Tunbridge Wells, has been helping people to access healthcare services since 1940.

AXA provide a range of products including their ideal and assure plans and the health cover range.

Aviva is one of the biggest Medical Insurance providers in the UK

Aviva is the world’s fifth-largest insurance provider and the largest insurance services provider in the UK.

Aviva’s offering is their healthier solutions product, you can tailor your policy to your own needs budget which provides great flexibility as long as you know what you are looking for.

Bupa is one of the UK's top Medical Insurance providers

Bupa was established over 60 years ago in the UK and as a healthcare provider is a household name.

They have a wide range of products, providing many options in their ClientChoice and Care ranges. Not limited to healthcare they also provide life and income protection products.

The Exeter's three coverage options make it easier to choose the best PMI for you

Exeter Family Friendly is a mutual Friendly Society which was founded in 1927 with over 64,000 members and gross assets of £132 million.

The Exeter has three main Health Insurance plans: Health Cover for Me, Health Choices for Me and Health Essentials for Me.

Vitality is a relatively new entrant to the UK Medical Insurance sector but is one of the better PMI providers to choose if you want lots of added benefits with your policy

Vitality which was formerly PruHealth was launched in October 2004 and is a joint venture to enter the health care provider market between Prudential and Discovery, the South African health insurance provider.

They have innovative approach to health insurance in their Vitality plan, rewarding you with points and reduced premiums for healthy living.

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Need Health Insurance advice?

Buying Private Health Insurance through an independent adviser is a common way of covering you and your family’s various healthcare needs. With so many options to choose from, it’s vital you get the right policy to suit your needs.

Nadeem Farid, Health and Protection Expert at Drewberry, can discuss whether you'll get better PMI for your circumstances from one provider or another

At Drewberry, we listen to your PMI needs and then find the right policy for you. That way, you can ensure you and your family are covered in exactly the way you want at a price you can afford.

To get impartial Medical Insurance advice, the experts at Drewberry are never more than a phone call away. Feel free to drop us a line at 02084327333 to discuss how we can help you find the best Health Insurance for you.

Nadeem Farid
Health and Protection Expert at Drewberry

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