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Health insurance

Get quicker treatment when you need it most

New customers save up to £644.85 on average by switching*

  • We compare quotes from Bupa, AXA, Aviva and more

  • Get on-hand support from health insurance broker of the year, Assured Futures

*Customers saved an average 29%, by switching insurers via Assured Futures. The average saving was £644.85 per year. These figures are based on a review of 157 clients that switched to a comparable or better policy. (May 2023)

What is health insurance?

Health insurance, also known as private medical insurance, is a policy that covers the cost of private healthcare. Depending on your level of cover, it can be used to pay for everything from private hospital stays to diagnostic procedures, surgery, physiotherapy and more.

You can take out health insurance for yourself, for you and a partner, for your child, or even for your whole family.

What are the different types of health insurance?

You can buy health insurance on an individual basis just for you, or you can get joint health insurance for yourself and your partner. If you have children you may want to consider family health insurance which will insure all of you under one plan.

What level of health insurance do I need?

You can select different levels of health insurance. The level of health insurance you need will depend on a number of factors including your health, the amount you can spend on cover and your priorities and concerns.

You can choose between:

  • Treatment only policies will only cover the cost of treatment. Some policies may also only offer cover for cancer.
  • Treatment and limited diagnosis policies cover the cost of treatment, offer cancer cover and limited cover for diagnostics
  • Treatment and full diagnostics policies offer more comprehensive cover. These plans will cover treatment, diagnostics and cancer. You may be able to add on additional benefits like complementary therapies, dental, or mental health cover.

When you compare health insurance you can select which level of cover you want to look at. Or, you can compare all plans.

What affects the price of private health insurance?

What you pay for private health insurance depends on your personal circumstances and the protection you’re after. These things include:

  • Your age with the older you are, the more you’re likely to pay
  • Your level of cover: policies that offer just treatment will be cheaper than those that offer diagnostics and a raft of additional benefits
  • Your location: if you live in London, private hospital charges are likely to be higher. You may more than other parts of the UK
  • Your lifestyle: leading a healthy lifestyle can make your insurance cheaper
  • Any pre-existing medical conditions: private health insurance for pre-existing medical insurance may be more expensive

What are the benefits of private healthcare?

Private healthcare comes with a range of benefits. By going private, depending on your cover level, you’ll usually be able to:

  • Avoid NHS waiting lists
  • Access a wider range of treatments, drugs and therapies
  • Get a faster diagnosis
  • Access top specialists and consultants
  • Choose where and when you get treatment
  • Stay in a private, en-suite room

Avoid NHS waiting lists for surgery and the need to take time off work due to pain. Private medical insurance means you don't have to wait for treatment.

Access a wider range of treatments, therapies and drugs that wouldn't be available on the NHS.

Get a faster diagnosis through quicker access to consultants and diagnostics. This can put your mind at rest or get you a diagnosis.

Access top specialists and consultants with private health insurance, which can also make it easier to choose your own doctor.

Choose when and where you get treatment. You can arrange treatment at a time that's convenient to you and, depending on your plan, choose where you receive it.

Stay in a private, en-suite room in a private hospital rather than a large ward and shared facilities.

How does health insurance work?

Health insurance works in the same way as any other insurance policy - you pay monthly or annually, and your insurer covers the cost of any treatment you need.

There are two main elements to medical insurance:

  • Treatment
  • Diagnosis

Treatment only cover is included with most policies. This protects you with cover for things like operations that you need to go into hospital for, or other treatment you receive while you’re there.

The diagnosis side of health insurance includes things like consultations with specialists, blood tests, MRIs and CTs that help to find out what’s wrong with you.

If you have treatment-only cover, you’ll need to visit an NHS GP first for a diagnosis. Once you’re diagnosed, you can then be treated at a private facility.

If you have full or partial diagnosis cover, you can be diagnosed and treated privately.

Depending on your level of cover, your health insurance policy may cover just one aspect, or it may cover both.

What does private health insurance cover?

Health insurance covers the cost of any private healthcare you receive. But exactly what is covered depends on your policy.

This is why it's important to compare health insurance plans and understand what's covered.

We compare three tiers of health insurance to find the best deal for you:

  • Basic - treatment only
  • Medium - treatment and limited diagnosis
  • Comprehensive - treatment and full diagnosis

Basic, or treatment only, covers the cost of any treatment you need, including operations, while you’re in hospital, as well as the cost of your stay. Any testing you need won't be covered.

You can still have tests done on the NHS. But private diagnosis and outpatient care, including things like consultations with specialists, will not be paid for.

Medium, or treatment and limited diagnosis, covers treatment, as well as some diagnostic testing. This can include blood tests at private hospitals, consultations with specialists and things like MRIs.

These will usually be done quicker than they would be on the NHS. You’ll normally be given a set amount of cover for these tests, for example, £1000 worth over the course of a year.

Comprehensive or treatment and full diagnosis covers all your treatment, including any diagnostic testing you undergo at private facilities. Additional support like mental health care, physiotherapy and dental work may also be covered.

We compare many health insurance companies to save you money

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What else can private health insurance cover?

Some private medical insurance policies will give you access to extra features on top of your treatment or diagnosis cover.

Depending on your health insurance plan, this can include:

  • Virtual GP appointments that give you 24/7 access to a GP from the comfort of your own home
  • Complementary therapies including physiotherapy, osteopathy or chiropractic care
  • Mental health support lead by a GP, or via a 24/7 mental health helpline that you can access as and when you need it
  • Dental and optical cover that either pays for your care in full, or reimburses you up to a set limit if you need to pay for a visit
  • NHS cashback allows you to claim back cash if you choose to undergo treatment in an NHS setting

These extra features could be included free of charge in the most comprehensive health insurance plans. But some policies may ask you to pay extra for them. Check your health insurance policy details to see what’s included in your cover.

What else can private health insurance cover?

While there’s a lot health insurance will cover, there are a number of exclusions.

Exclusions can vary between policies, and you should check before you buy, but you can typically expect the following to be excluded:

  • Emergency treatment
  • Organ transplants
  • Prescription drugs and dressings you receive as an outpatient
  • Illnesses developed due to drug abuse
  • Kidney dialysis
  • Experimental, unproven treatments or drugs
  • Cosmetic treatments
  • Routine pregnancy procedures
  • Mobility aids such as wheelchairs
  • Deliberately self-inflicted injuries
  • Infertility

Most of these will be covered by the NHS. But you may have to pay out of your own pocket if you want to be treated for them privately.

I already have health insurance, can I switch insurers?

Yes. If you’ve held a health insurance policy for 12 months or more, switching cover is an option for you. If you’d like to move to a different insurer, you have two options:

  • Switch policy
  • Start a new policy

Switch policies. This means you can transfer your current policy to a new insurer, without a break in cover. Depending on the condition, your policy may continue to cover previous conditions under your new insurer. If you want to explore transferring any conditions, you'll need to answer any applicable questions during the switch process. 

To switch insurers you’ll need to provide some extra information, such as your medical history. This will determine if the policy is right for you and if the insurer will accept the cover, including any existing conditions and exclusions.

The benefits of switching are:

  • Cheaper insurance could be available.
  • Access new products in the market.
  • Tailored cover for your current needs.
  • No break in cover. There may be a gap in cover if you start a new policy.

Start a new policy, also known as a moratorium policy. This means you end your previous cover and start a brand new policy. If you start a new policy, any medical conditions you’ve had in the past 5 years will be excluded until you’ve spent 2 years free of symptoms, treatment, medication or advice for that condition.

How do I switch my policy to a new insurer?

There are two ways to switch cover:

1. Get a quote through Confused.com and you’ll be able to select ‘switch policy’. You can then apply online by answering the insurer-specific application questions. The answers on the application may change the price of your insurance and Assured Futures might need to call you to discuss the application in more detail.

2. Call Assured Futures on 0808 1000 338 and speak to their dedicated team of health advisers. They’ll be able to take your details over the phone and offer you a policy that meets your needs and your budget.

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What our health insurance expert says

The high demand on the NHS can make it tricky to get the treatment you need when you need it. With shorter waiting lists and more control over when and where you’re treated, private healthcare lets you take control of your treatment. And health insurance can help you fund it.

What are the different types of health insurance?

Need more help?

How do I get the best deal on private health insurance?

If you already have medical insurance, changing insurance companies is the easiest way to save. During May 2023, new customers saved £644.85 on average1 when switching cover with Assured Futures. Compare quotes today to see if you could save.

If you’re new to health insurance, there’s a few easy ways to cut the cost of your policy:

  • Add an excess to cut the cost of your premiums, the more you can afford the cheaper your policy will be
  • Look out for offers among your quotes, as providers may have sales on throughout the year
  • Ponder the perks as some policies come with extras like discount gym memberships
  • Get the right level of cover as you may not need the most comprehensive policy
  • Consider family health insurance to insure all your loved ones under one, cheaper policy

Always compare health insurance plans carefully. Price is important but the cheapest policy won't necessarily provide the cover you need.

Make sure you know what is and isn't covered by your private health insurance to ensure you get good value for money.

1*Customers saved an average 29%, by switching insurers via Assured Futures. The average saving was £644.85 per year. These figures are based on a review of 157 clients that switched to a comparable or better policy. (May 2023)

Can you get health insurance for pre-existing conditions?

Most private health insurance policies will not cover pre-existing conditions. These are normally health issues you’ve been treated for in the last five years. But some insurers may put a time limit of four years or less.

Asthma and diabetes are common examples of pre-existing conditions. Unless you’ve gone several years without being treated for them, they usually won’t be covered.

Chronic conditions are similar. These include things like high blood pressure, arthritis and diabetes that are likely to cause you issues for a long time. If you’ve recently received treatment for them, most insurers won’t cover you any further.

When getting a quote, have your medical history and details on any pre-existing conditions to hand to make it a bit easier.

Does health insurance cover mental health treatment?

Basic health insurance policies usually won’t cover mental health care. Advanced policies that include full treatment and diagnosis cover will either cover mental health fully or provide this cover as an added extra.

If it’s provided as an add-on, you may have to pay something towards it. Check your policy details to be sure.

Is there an age limit for health insurance?

You’ll need to be over 18 to take out a health insurance policy for yourself or your family. Children under 18 can still be covered via family health insurance cover, but the policy holder will need to be above the minimum age.

As for an upper age bracket, this will depend on your provider but most health insurance companies will cover you up to any age. Be prepared to pay more though, as the older you are, the higher your insurance costs are likely to be.

Does health insurance cover dental?

Dental insurance may be included in more advanced policies but is unlikely to be covered by basic ones.

If it’s not included as part of your package, you may be able to access dental insurance as an added extra. Here, you’ll likely have to pay something towards the cover you receive, with your health insurance policy covering the rest.

How do I get a health insurance quote?

Getting a quote is easy. All you need to do is fill in the form. There we’ll ask you for information that could affect your cover price, these include:

  • Your age
  • Whether or not you smoke
  • Where you live
  • Your general wellbeing
  • Any pre-existing conditions you have

These will help determine whether you’ll be offered a quote, and how much you’re likely to pay for your health insurance.

Always take care comparing health insurance quotes.

Should I pay monthly or annually for my private health insurance?

Like with any insurance product, paying annually is often slightly cheaper than paying monthly.

You’ll still enjoy the same level of private health insurance however you pay. So it’s simply a matter of finding what works best for you.

What is an excess in health insurance?

An excess is a fixed fee you pay towards the cost of any private healthcare treatment you claim for. You’ll arrange this with your insurer before taking out a policy.

Typically, the higher the excess you’re willing to pay, the cheaper your health insurance quote will be.

Do I need health insurance?

Whether you need private medical insurance depends on what you want from your healthcare. Many treatments are available free of charge on the NHS, but often require you to wait to access them.

Due to a lower demand for private healthcare facilities, health insurance allows you to get a diagnosis quicker. You can also avoid waiting lists for the treatment you need. You may even be able to access therapies that the NHS can’t fund.

Take a look at the benefits of private health care on this page for a rundown of the perks of going private and consider whether they’re for you.

Will I need to have a medical to get private medical insurance?

No, you shouldn’t need to have a medical to get health insurance. You’ll normally just have to fill out a medical history form, and your provider will do the rest.

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The Confused.com medical insurance service is provided by Assured Futures Ltd of Hadley House, Endsleigh Park, Cheltenham, GL51 4AE Assured Futures Ltd registered in England & Wales company number 3040737. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Firm reference number 176392 as detailed on the Financial Services Register. Our service is free and compares a wide range of trusted household names. Confused.com is an intermediary and receives commission from Assured Futures Ltd which is based on a percentage of the total annual premium if you decide to buy through our website. We pride ourselves on impartiality on independence - therefore we don't promote any one insurance provider over another.