What is health insurance and why do you need it?

Health insurance can help pay for private treatment, meaning you're less likely to be stuck on a waiting list.

amy smith
Amy Smith
Updated 14 December 2021  | 2 mins read

What is private health insurance?

Health insurance – also called private medical insurance – can help cover the cost of private treatment for pre-agreed conditions.

You pay a set amount monthly or annually, and you’ll also likely need to pay an excess when you claim but you’ll be able to access private health care when you need it, depending on what your cover includes.

Exactly what’s covered varies, but it usually includes hospital stays, health checks, tests, surgeries and out-patient care. Some policies also cover cancer, mental health and physiotherapy.

How does private health insurance work?

If you become unwell, you’ll need a GP’s appointment first, where you can ask to be referred for private treatment.

Then you contact your insurer to check that treatment is covered and start the claims process. You can get a policy that covers just yourself, or your family too.

Why get health insurance?

The NHS is a fantastic service that we’re lucky to have, but sometimes you might be waiting a long time to see a consultant or receive treatment, which delays your medical care.

Health insurance allows you to bypass NHS waiting lists which can speed up diagnosis and treatment – although keep in mind that it’s not designed for emergencies and pre-existing conditions usually aren’t covered.

You’ll also be able to access treatments that aren’t available on the NHS and you might even be able to decide where you’re treated, with access to top hospitals.

How do I choose the right plan for me?

You’ll need to consider your personal circumstances. Think about what conditions you’d want the policy to cover, what level of cover you’d like and your budget.

Some policies will have a qualifying period – a length of time after you first take out the policy where you’re unable to claim, for example 30 days.

Our partner, ActiveQuote, provides free, regulated advice on health insurance, so you’ll be able to ask any questions you have to make sure you’re getting the right cover for your needs.