Private Health Insurance Explained

An easy guide to buying private medical insurance in the UK.
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While employees often have some form of private health cover from their employer, it can be helpful to get additional private medical insurance as a separate policy to ensure you have the medical cover you need, when you want it.

A private health insurance policy can also be a useful way to supplement medical treatments available on the National Health Service (NHS), and can be a good option for those who favour private treatment and want more control over their healthcare.

Find out if you would benefit from having additional private health insurance in our guide. Read from top to bottom for a comprehensive explanation or use the links to learn about any of the following topics:

What is private medical insurance?

Private Medical Insurance (PMI) is, typically, for people who want to cover the cost of private medical care for acute, short-term and curable conditions, rather than existing, long term health problems, disabilities or incurable diseases. 

Having additional health insurance means that when you need medical treatment, in most cases, you won’t need to worry about waiting times on the NHS. It can also pay for, or towards, the cost of consultations, tests or surgery that you would otherwise have to foot yourself.

You can get a range of different levels of cover, at varying costs. Giving you choice over the kind of cover you pay for.

Private medical insurance and private health insurance are the same kind of product, offering the same type of cover. 

Private medical insurance is a term more commonly used in the US but, as with many Americanisms, it’s a term British people have adopted.

While some providers will call their insurance product private medical insurance, others will use the term private health insurance.

What is the purpose of these policies?

Health insurance is designed to offer treatment alongside the services provided by the NHS. For example, doctors appointments would still be through the NHS, but with private medical insurance you could also receive:

  • Faster treatment
  • The option to choose a time and place that is convenient for you
  • Better facilities
  • A wider range of treatment types and drugs

What does it cover?

Private health insurance can include cover for inpatient, outpatient or day treatment:

  • Inpatient treatment is when a hospital bed is required for tests or surgery
  • Outpatient treatment covers things like consultations, diagnoses and treatments where overnight stays aren’t required
  • Day patient treatment covers regular consultation appointments and tests

There will be some limitations with every policy you’ll find.

Generally, the majority of plans won’t provide cover for any of the following: 

  • Emergency treatment – emergency ambulance service and A&E are usually run by the NHS
  • Chronic illnesses or long term incurable conditions, such as HIV
  • Treatment for drug or alcohol abuse, such as rehabilitation costs
  • Elective treatment, including cosmetic surgery and fertility treatment
  • Care and treatment during pregnancy, although emergencies and health complications may be covered by some very specialist plans

Why should I get private health insurance if I live in the UK?

Even if you live in the UK with access to healthcare through the NHS, there are numerous advantages of taking out a health insurance policy.

These include (but are not limited to):

  1. Access to specialist drugs and treatments – some drugs and treatments aren’t available on the NHS, either because they’re too expensive or haven’t been approved by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (England and Wales) or the Scottish Medicines Consortium.
  2. Specialist referrals – you can ask your GP to refer you to a private expert if you want a second opinion, or access to specialist treatment options.
  3. Reduced wait time – use your health insurance to get access to doctors or tests sooner and reduce the time spent waiting for NHS treatment, potentially leading to faster diagnosis and treatment.
  4. More flexibility – depending on the policy you buy, you can choose (to some extent) a specific surgeon and hospital location to suit your needs, so getting the treatment can be more convenient for you.
  5. Better facilities – private medical insurance can be used to get a private room rather than having to stay on a busy ward or sharing a mixed-sex ward.
  6. Access to more scans – if the NHS refuses to let you have a scan, or there’s a delay in your referral, you can use your insurance to pay to have one sooner.

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Do I need private health insurance?

Private medical insurance supplements treatment available through the NHS. 

Many people have cover through their employee benefits package, but if you aren’t employed or are self-employed, and can afford the premiums, you may think it’s worth paying for cover to have more control and choice over your healthcare.

You probably don’t need extra insurance if you:

  • Are happy relying on the NHS 
  • Already have insurance as part of your employee benefits package
  • Are only worried about your children’s health; with the NHS, children get immediate priority
  • Only have spare cash for basic insurance, such as car or home insurance
  • Can easily afford to pay for individual treatments. It may be more cost effective to pay for treatment as and when you need it if you have sufficient savings or have enough disposable income

When do I need it?

You should definitely consider some form of private health cover if you: 

  • Don’t want to wait for treatment on the NHS
  • Don’t like using the NHS and prefer private care wherever possible
  • Want cover for drugs or treatment you can’t get on the NHS, such as specialist surgery

How to choose the best private health insurance plan for you

When it comes to choosing your private health plan, you’ll first need to work out:

  1. What illnesses or injuries do you want cover for? For example, do you want to ensure you’re covered for cancer treatment, should you get diagnosed after you take out the insurance?
  2. What types of treatment would you like to cover? Do you want things like physiotherapy or dental covered as standard?

Once you have a good idea of the sort of level of cover you want, you can look for those policies which offer the cover you want and compare products, costs and providers based on this.

How do I ensure I get the right payout?

There are comparison sites offering you ways to look for private health insurance online. When you buy private health cover it’s important to check the fine details to ensure you’re paying for the cover you need. 

If you want help comparing policies and the level of cover you get for the premium, get in touch for a free, no obligation chat. We’ll introduce you to one of the expert advisors we work with, and save you time and hassle by doing the research and legwork for you.

All the experts we deal with are independent financial advisors with access to insurance providers across the entire UK. They have the knowledge, tools and experience to ensure you find the right health insurance cover at the most competitive price available.

How do I buy private medical insurance?

You can buy private health insurance direct from insurance providers, but you need to be sure you’re buying the level of cover you need.

There are also ways to buy the cover you want online but, again, be aware that you will need to pay close attention to the smallprint before you sign on the dotted line and start paying for cover.

It’s possible to miss something in the finer details which means you may not be buying exactly what you thought you were.

To be sure you get the right level of health insurance coverage, at the best available price, talk to an independent insurance broker with the experience to make sure you end up with the health insurance you need.

Make an enquiry for a free, no obligation chat and we’ll match you with one of the expert advisors we work with.

I thought private medical insurance was an American product. How big is it in the UK?

Private medical insurance is the term most familiar to the US market but insurance providers also use the term in the UK so it’s been adopted as normal in Britain too.

Private medical insurance and private health insurance offer the same kind of insurance, it’s simply necessary to make sure the product you buy gives you the level of cover you desire.

To make sure you’re buying insurance which covers the level of private healthcare you want, speak to an independent expert, like those we work with.

Where can I get more information about private health insurance?

There are many places you can find information about private health insurance online but if you wish to talk to someone and find out the information you’re specifically interested in, talk to an independent expert.

We work with independent financial advisors who arrange private health insurance for customers all the time. They know the market inside out and their independent status means they can source insurance from providers across the UK and can find the right level of cover, no matter what you need or want.

Make an enquiry and we’ll introduce you to someone who you can discuss your needs with directly. They will be happy to answer all your questions and save you a whole heap of time.

Speak to an expert

With so many options available both in terms of who to buy from and what cover to choose, buying private health insurance can quickly feel complicated.

Make life easier and take the hassle out of the decision by talking to one of the expert advisors we work with. All the experts are independent advisors with access to insurance providers and all the products available on the UK market.

They have the tools and experience to ensure you get the right level of cover at the best available price, with the least amount of hassle.

Call 0808 189 0463 or make an enquiry for a free, no obligation chat and we’ll introduce you to an advisor with the right experience to help you arrange the cover you need and want.

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Call us on 0808 189 0463 or fill out our quick enquiry form to be matched with the perfect advisor for you.
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