Private health insurance providers offer a range of policies which cover different illnesses and conditions. Generally speaking, the more you pay, the more comprehensive your cover will be.
What is private health insurance?
Private health insurance works like any other insurance policy. You pay a premium (monthly, annually or quarterly depending on the provider), and claim on your insurance if you need treatment. When you claim, you will usually pay a small excess fee and your insurer will cover the cost of the medical bill. Depending on the policy, the excess could be anything from £0 to £500.
Generally speaking, private health insurance covers a range of acute conditions but typically not chronic conditions. Acute conditions refer to ones which are temporary in nature (such as personal injuries, short term illnesses) and any that come on suddenly. Chronic conditions, on the other hand, are ones that you live with for extended periods of time or your whole life. Private health insurance can cover you for new health problems that may arise and the necessary treatment; however, it will not cover you for a pre-existing condition.
How much does private health insurance cost?
The exact cost of private health insurance will vary between providers, policies and your individual circumstances. However, the average yearly premium for private health insurance is around £1,500 or about £126 a month. That said, many people pay far less than this. Generally speaking, the greater your coverage, the more money you will pay.
What factors affect the cost of the policy?
Insurers will vary the price of the premium based on certain factors.
Coverage – you can have individual coverage or policies which cover families or couples. This will affect the price. In some cases, it may work out more cost-effective to have one policy to cover multiple people. Yet you should always do your homework as sometimes it may be cheaper to have several separate policies.
Age – premiums tend to become more expensive as you get older because the more likely you are to make a claim.
Family history – if you have family members who have suffered from serious conditions, it could indicate that you are likely to suffer from the same condition, which could make the policy more expensive.
Medical history – if you have pre-existing conditions, you will probably not be covered by private health insurance policies. There may be some conditions that suggest you are at risk of further problems in the future which could make your premium more expensive.
Lifestyle – lifestyle factors such as drinking alcohol, smoking or being overweight could also affect how much you pay.
What does private medical insurance cover in the UK?
Different insurance providers offer different plans, ranging from basic to comprehensive.
Basic cover is the most simple insurance policy offered by providers. This usually covers inpatient treatment but there may be limits when it comes to types of treatments, choice of hospitals, number of annual treatments, home nursing, ambulance transport and diagnostic tests.
One step up from basic, you have mid-range coverage. This includes both inpatient and outpatient treatment as well as diagnostic tests, consultation appointments and services such as physiotherapy. Some more advanced policies also include services for mental health such as psychiatry. With mid-range, there are still limits around the number of treatments you can have annually, ambulance transport, home nursing, and which hospitals are available to you.
Comprehensive will cover inpatient and outpatient treatment, private ambulance transport, home nursing, dental treatment and alternative medicine. It can often facilitate services such as a parent staying in hospital with a child and may extend to cover a whole family rather than just an individual policy.
In addition to these policies, you can usually choose various add-ons for an additional fee.
There are some things which will not be covered by private health insurance, even with the most comprehensive plan, including:
- Emergency treatment
- Chronic conditions
- Electric treatments (such as cosmetic surgery)
- Treatment abroad
- Pregnancy care