Health insurance, often referred to as private medical insurance (PMI), is an insurance policy which helps cover the cost of private treatment for pre-agreed conditions and ailments.
You'll sometimes hear it called PMI, but in most cases the product is the same - although what's covered will vary from policy to policy.
You’ll pay a monthly or annual premium for your insurance and when you need to access private care, your medical covers some or all of these costs.
Quite a few companies offer private healthcare as part of a benefits package. It tends to be for the employee only, but sometimes extends to your family too. Double check you don’t already have health insurance through your employer before taking out your own cover.
It’s entirely up to you. Health insurance gives you access to treatment quickly at private hospitals - skipping waiting lists or accessing drugs that aren’t available through the NHS.
Depending on how extensive the cover is, whether you’re trying to get cover for a pre-existing medical condition, or whether you want to add your family, private medical cover can get expensive.
If you’re considering private medical for particular reasons, check policy docs when you’re comparing insurers to make sure you’re covered for what you need.
Private health insurance could cover treatments like:
Health insurance policies don’t generally cover:
Here are a few things we might ask you for
When you want it to start, your budget and your postcode
A bit about you
Compare your options and choose the health insurance that suits you best
Getting the right health insurance is crucial. First things first, work out which type you’ll need and who you want to cover:
This is a policy that covers you or you and your partner for private medical care.
You might already have health insurance through your employer so it’s worth checking before you take out a policy.
Family health insurance can cover the whole family for one monthly premium.
It’ll pay out a cash sum should anyone need medical assistance.
International health insurance can protect you and your family while you’re living abroad.
This could save you from shelling out a huge amount on medical fees.
Dental insurance can pay out to help you with NHS or private treatment.
You’ll pay an upfront sum and then claim it back through your insurance.
Private health insurance has its advantages:
But it isn’t a cure-all:
You could reduce your monthly premiums:
Non-smokers usually get a cheaper deal, there are NHS support services that can help
Your company may offer free healthcare – check before you buy a policy
But only if you’d be able to afford to pay that amount upfront
A lump sum generally works out cheaper than monthly premiums
Certain insurers will give you a cheaper deal if you stay fit
Are there any treatments you feel you could cut from your policy?
Compare your options to make sure you’re getting a great deal
The benefits of being a private patient will depend on your policy but could include:
This is dependent on the policy you choose and your individual circumstances, including the level of cover you require.
Insurers will consider many different factors when calculating your insurance premium such as:
You might be able to bring your premium down further by choosing a six week wait option on your policy. This means that if the NHS waiting list is less than six weeks for the treatment you need, you’ll have it done on the NHS instead.
Have a think about:
If you’re self-employed, you won’t be able to get tax relief as the insurance isn’t directly related to your business.
Switching insurers is usually a smooth transition. However, you should check with your current provider to make sure you’ll be covered, even while you’re making the move.
If you leave your current insurer before the term of contract is complete, you may be charged.
Read the terms and conditions of your policy carefully before you take the plunge.
Find the answers in our health insurance guides.