How to choose the best private health insurance

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Private health insurance is an incredibly personal thing. Everyone has different health needs, which means people will benefit from very different policies. However, there is something all customers have in common: they want the best cover there is.

Of course, the ‘best’ private health insurance varies from person to person. That’s why, here at Healthcare Clarity, we give free advice to anyone who needs it, reviewing existing policies, and comparing every UK provider to find the most suitable cover for every client. And if you want to choose the best private health insurance for your circumstances, you’re going to have to follow these steps first.

1. Establish who needs cover

The first step is to decide who you want to cover under your private health insurance. If it’s just you, you’ll need an individual policy, but maybe you’d like to include additional members. For example, a joint policy grants both you and your partner access to private healthcare, or you could cover your whole household with family health insurance. Perhaps you’re simply insuring others on their behalf, such as your child, or your employees under a company policy.

There are other factors worth considering too, such as age. Private health insurance generally becomes more expensive as you grow older because providers consider you more likely to develop health issues and make a claim. That’s why, once you reach the half-century mark, an over 50s policy is highly recommended as the most cost-effective option. Another relevant point is your location. Private health insurance usually applies to medical care within the UK, but if you are going to be overseas for a long period, international cover is required.

Whatever you’re looking for, it’s important to be clear with your broker. As well as helping them find the best cover for your needs, this information may also save you money. For example, it’s typically cheaper for multiple members to be insured by a single policy instead of taking out individual ones.

2. Identify what you need to cover

Private health insurance can cover as much or as little as you want, so you’ll need to think carefully about how far you want it to stretch. Every policy, more or less, will include inpatient (or day patient) cover, which means you can claim for private medical treatment where you need a bed but are discharged the same day, or stay in hospital overnight. Beyond that, there are many different cover options you can include, such as:

3. Set a budget

In an ideal world, you’d probably like to be covered for everything. However, the more you include on your policy, the more expensive it will be. That’s why it’s important to set a budget and establish priorities, enabling you to get the cover you really need for a price you can afford. Of course, you should be realistic about the cost of private health insurance and the factors that impact your premiums, such as age, location and medical history. Your broker will be able to explain this in more detail, and can then help you find a policy that’s in line with your budget. The market is incredibly competitive right now, so they’ll usually be able to find you a good deal. However, if you simply can’t afford the cover you require, we may suggest rethinking private health insurance and exploring alternative options.

4. Think about the impact of pre-existing conditions

It is possible to get private health insurance with pre-existing conditions, but be aware that it will be harder, and your options are somewhat limited. As a general rule, private insurance policies will exclude pre-existing conditions and health issues that arise from them. That said, there are some exceptions, which is why it’s always worth discussing them with your broker. If you have had cancer in the past, for example, there are providers who may agree to insure you without an exclusion, as long as you have been cancer-free for a certain period of time. It’s also vital that you secure a policy with the right medical underwriting, because this ultimately determines the limitations that will apply. Again, this is something your broker can advise you on.

Do bear in mind that pre-existing conditions will increase your premiums, and therefore impact what you can afford. But on the flip side, if you currently do have insurance for a past health issue, you may be able to get better cover elsewhere. Many people stay with providers which are incredibly expensive simply because they believe nobody else will provide them with cover for their pre-existing conditions. However, we often find companies not only willing to continue this insurance, but at a cheaper rate to boot.

5. Explore ways to cut costs

The best private health insurance will include all the cover you need for the lowest price, and there are many ways to bring down the cost. If you currently have a policy in place, you could save a great deal of money by switching providers. Many big-name insurers such as Vitality and Aviva offer very competitive ‘switch and save’ deals, which could result in much better premiums if you shift to their products instead. You may also qualify for a no-claims discount if you haven’t yet made a claim against your private health insurance.

Other amendments you can make to your policy to reduce the price include:

  • Decreasing your hospital list and having the option to receive healthcare from fewer medical facilities and specialists.
  • Adding excess and thereby agreeing to pay a portion of your medical bills yourself.
  • Including a six-week option, so you’ll use NHS services when the waiting list is less than six weeks.

Although the thought of saving money on your cover is obviously appealing, you should never add anything to your policy if you don’t fully understand the implications. For example, while your premium will be lower with a six-week option, it also means you might have to use NHS services when you don’t want to. This isn’t ideal if the private facilities are the reason you want health insurance in the first place.

As with all the points on this list, professional advice is essential for choosing the best private health insurance. Now you understand all the factors that need to be considered, you can be confident knowing the kind of things you’ll need to discuss with your broker. Contact Healthcare Clarity for free, independent, non-committal advice from our experienced experts.