Although the UK has its very own free healthcare system, consisting of the National Health Service (NHS), there’s no such thing as being too cautious. Many people would rather skip the long NHS waiting times and have a more personalised choice in their healthcare – and that’s where applying for private health insurance in the UK comes in.
When it comes to private health insurance in the UK, the private healthcare sector in all honesty is considered a really nice market. Since NHS covers an extensive amount of healthcare services for free, not many UK citizens deem private health insurance a necessity. In fact, only around 10.5 percent of the population invest in private health insurance, which is a really small amount compared to other countries in the world.
Why get private health insurance in the UK
Since NHS covers a lot of things, even for expats, you must be wondering – why bother getting private health insurance in the UK?
Well, the purpose of private healthcare in the UK is so that you, as a patient, can receive access to treatment more quickly instead of waiting for days or perhaps weeks. The maximum waiting time for non-urgent consultations under NHS is a little over four months! While I’m sure it’s rare for patients to actually wait for the full waiting period before getting their consultation, many expats would rather skip the long queues and get straight to the appointment.
Other than skipping long queues, many choose private healthcare so that they can have more choices in choosing their doctors. In the UK, your General Practitioner (GP) usually refers you to a specialist doctor. However, under private healthcare, you’d be able to choose a specialist doctor or recommended doctor of your choice. Furthermore, you can enjoy private ward rooms rather than having to share an open ward with other strangers.
If you’re still unsure whether you want to purchase private health insurance in the UK, here are other reasons why purchasing it might be desirable for some people:
- Avoiding long waiting times in NHS treatment
- Access to private hospitals and private hospital treatments
- Choice of specialist if referred by GP
- Ability to choose a private ward instead of open one if hospitalised
- Choose scans needed to be done without delay
- Faster access to physiotherapy
- Access to specialist drugs and treatments not covered by NHS
- Ensure extra coverage for all healthcare services
How to get private health insurance
If you’re looking to get private health insurance in the UK, here are some ways you can get it:
- Financial Advisers
While the usual method to purchase health insurance is through insurers, financial advisers, brokers and bankers, some company benefit plans also offer their employees private health insurance. Employers will set up the policy for their employees, and pay all the premiums as part of a package when working for them. Other employers, instead of providing the insurance plan, may instead offer access to cheaper private medical insurance if you are unable to purchase them independently.
Since some insurance companies do not cover GP services, emergency care, maternity services or mental health services, it’s important to carefully choose a plan with an insurance company that covers the healthcare services that are deemed important to you.
If you find that your employer or company does not offer private health insurance and thus wants to purchase them individually, then head over to an insurer, financial adviser, broker, or even the bank to purchase your insurance plans.
Looking for a medical insurance broker? Find one on the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA) or the Association of Medical Insurers and Intermediaries (AMII).
Types of private health insurance
Many private health insurance packages can be tailored to your needs or specific healthcare services that you desire to be covered. The premiums will also depend on the level of cover you purchase, and whether you have had any previous medical conditions. When you first take out private health insurance in the UK, you’ll need to pay a percentage of the total cost. That’s why choosing a private health insurance that caters to your needs is important, as different health insurance companies choose to cover different areas of healthcare services.
There are a few types of medical insurance:
- Full Medical Underwriting: Usually requires your full medical history, or at least pre-existing medical conditions of the past five years
- Moratorium: You can give a limited answer regarding your medical history to your insurer, and can also be the more convenient option
There are also condition-specific or special health insurance policies, such as policies that only cover you if you have to wait longer than 6 weeks for NHS treatment, or policies designed for senior citizens or focus on specific illnesses such as cancer.
You can also choose to receive private healthcare without being covered by insurance if you have a specific incident where you’d rather not be on a super long waiting list. Although, be prepared to pay for the extensive private healthcare fees!
Private healthcare cost in the UK
If you decide you don’t need private healthcare insurance, and would rather pay for private treatment from your pocket, just be warned that it’s going to be really pricey. Private healthcare in the UK is pretty expensive, and if you’re curious for rough estimates, here are some prices:
- GP consultations: £199+
- Private cataract surgery: £2,300+
- Private hip replacement: £11,110+
So if you want to ensure you’re covered financially, it would be best to take out health insurance for yourself, especially if you know you’re not going to want to wait for long NHS queues or for personalised and faster services. Expect to pay an estimated amount of slightly over £1000 annually, or around £100 per month, if you’re looking to pay for private health insurance in the UK.
Private health insurance companies
As the biggest UK health insurance provider, Bupa has millions of members and provides good value for all its health insurance plans. Bupa has industry experience, low out-of-pocket costs and is a not-for-profit organisation.
Get a quote here.
Aviva claims the spot as the largest insurance group in the UK, and the sixth-largest insurance group in the world. Its healthcare packages cover acute conditions, access to hundreds of hospitals, cancer care cover, hospital charges and outpatient fees.
General & Medical
Established in the 19080s, General & Medical are experienced insurance providers that provide a variety of healthcare plans. It has four plans – Essentials, Everyday, Lifestyle and Elite. It covers individuals, families or couples who are looking for a flexible healthcare plan that is both affordable and high quality.
All in all, the UK healthcare system is relatively advanced and affordable for anyone. Even if you’re an expat who is not a permanent resident, fear not, as you’re still eligible to apply for NHS services. If you desire more choices in your medical treatment or would rather not wait in a queue for long, then purchasing private health insurance would be wise – Especially after seeing those impressive prices for those who wish to pay for medical procedures out of pocket!