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If you’ve ever had to have NHS treatment, you’ll know how long the waiting lists can be. A solution for cutting these waiting times in half is to go private, but unfortunately, the cost of private medical care can be too expensive for many people. That’s where health insurance comes in.

But what is health insurance, and what are the different types available? Below you’ll find everything you need to know about health insurance premiums and how they work. If you’d like to know more, keep scrolling for more information.

What Is Health Insurance?

How Does Health Insurance Work?

So how does private health insurance work? Like other insurance policies, you’ll typically pay a monthly or annual premium. If you’re referred to a specialist by your GP, you can claim with your insurance provider. You’ll then be able to choose who you’re treated by and the hospital you go to.

How do you get started?

If you have private health insurance coverage and develop a health issue, you should see your GP as you would usually but tell them you have health insurance and ask what options are available. Your doctor will then be able to recommend a private centre or specialist.

Alternatively, you can choose your own. If you’re not sure where to have your private medical treatment, just request an open referral letter from your GP.

Some comprehensive health insurance policies give you access to private GPs to start your diagnosis. They can then make the necessary referral or give you a prescription as part of the claim.

How do you make a claim?

To make a claim, start by contacting your insurer, who will tell you what you need to do. If you have a referral letter from your NHS GP, you’ll need to pass it on to the insurance company.

Your insurer will accept your claim if your private medical treatment is covered under your insurance policy. Then, they will explain your options and any limits within the policy and then pay for your medical expenses. They may also be able to help you find the right specialist for your health problem.

What Is Covered By Health Insurance?

Private health insurance policies can range from just treatments to complete diagnosis. This may include outpatient and inpatient treatment or diagnostic appointments such as physiotherapy or blood tests, depending on what you need to recover. What’s covered by your health insurance also depends on the level of cover you’ve chosen.

Basic health insurance policy

Basic health insurance covers just inpatient treatments such as routine checkups, surgery, and tests. This may extend to outpatient treatments as well, depending on the cover.

This will usually include cancer and heart treatment, but this may be limited, so double-check the policy before you buy it.

Mid-level health insurance policy

A mid-level insurance policy provides all the cover of a basic policy plus cover for eligible treatments and cancer cover, with possible cover for diagnostic scans, tests, and consultations. Physiotherapy may be included as well, but this depends on your policy.

Mid-level insurance policies also typically cover out-patient treatments, which are medical care performed on the same day without the patient staying in the hospital overnight.

Comprehensive health insurance policy

A comprehensive private health insurance policy covers diagnostic scans and consultations plus full cover for outpatient and inpatient treatment. This can sometimes include physiotherapy and aftercare.

The most in-depth comprehensive policies may also include cover for licensed cancer treatments that aren’t available through the NHS. Comprehensive policies have all the cover of the primary and mid-level guidelines, plus:

  • Physiotherapy
  • Mental health cover
  • At-home care

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What Is Generally Not Covered By a Health Insurance Policy?

What Are The Different Types of Health Insurance Policies?

With various types of health insurance policies to choose from, you’ll be able to find the right cover for you and your family. Below, you’ll find the different policy types you can choose from.

Individual only cover

Individual only cover

One of the most common policies, an individual only policy, covers just you, and it helps you avoid NHS waiting times. You can receive medical treatment promptly should you sustain an injury or fall ill.
Family health insurance

Family health insurance

Family health insurance covers the cost of private healthcare for you and your family, from getting a diagnosis to treatments.

As with other insurance policies, you’ll pay a monthly premium that covers some or the entire cost of medical treatment for acute problems that happen after your policy begins.

Joint cover

Joint cover

A joint policy will cover you and your partner in one policy, providing quick access to private treatment and advice. There’ll be a monthly or annual premium you’ll have to pay, which will cover the expense of any medicines you both need for conditions that you develop.
International health insurance

International health insurance

International health insurance will cover the expense of treatments for your family whilst you’re all living abroad. This should not be confused with travel insurance, which only provides healthcare coverage during holidays and shorter trips.

Most international policies provide cover for 12 months at a time, and it’s usually paid for in annual or monthly payments. Some policies offer optional extras, such as dental care, pre-existing conditions, and cover for dependants.

If you become ill or injured, you’ll have to claim with the insurance company within a certain period. But, if you’re not able to do it yourself, someone else may be able to claim on your behalf.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Health Insurance?

There are many advantages and drawbacks to private health insurance, and you should be aware of both of them before you purchase a policy. Take a look at the pros and cons of health insurance policies below.


  • You can request your GP refer you to a specialist or private expert for a second opinion or specialised treatment.
  • You’ll be able to get the scans and tests you need. If your NHS appointment is delayed or they cancel it, you can use your policy to cover the cost.
  • You can enjoy reduced waiting times. Your private medical insurance means you can reduce your waiting time for NHS treatment if it’s more than six weeks.
  • You can choose your healthcare provider and the hospital. With various doctors and private hospitals to choose from, you can select the ones that suit you best.
  • You’ll get a private room. Unlike open NHS wards, your private medical insurance means you can enjoy a secluded area to yourself.
  • You may be able to access specialist treatments and drugs that aren’t available on the National Health Service. This is because they may be too expensive or haven’t been approved by NICE (The National Institute and Clinical Excellence) or SMC (The Scottish Medicines Consortium).
  • You’ll be able to access physiotherapy services quicker if you have private health insurance than if you rely on the NHS. Thus resulting in a faster recovery time if you were to become injured.


  • NHS care may be as good or better than private care. If you have a severe condition such as heart disease or cancer, you’ll be given priority on the NHS, and the hospitals are sometimes as good as private hospitals.
  • Chronic illnesses are not typically covered, such as diabetes and some types of cancers.
  • If you have pre-existing medical conditions, you may not be able to have them covered. It might be possible to add them to your policy, but this could increase the cost of your premium.
  • There may not be treatment options that are local to you. If your chosen policy has an approved list of hospitals and specialists, it may not include those you would like to see. They may not be in a convenient location for you either.

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How Much Does Health Insurance Cost?

The price of private medical insurance will be different for everyone. The cost of your insurance premium will be based on various factors, including the level of cover you choose and your personal circumstances.

Factors that affect the cost of health insurance

Your age

Your age can be one of the most critical factors for insurers to calculate the cost of your premium. You’ll be more at risk of developing severe health problems and may need medical services more often as you get older.

The type of cover you choose

A basic policy is usually much cheaper than a fully comprehensive policy, so consider how much cover you think you’ll need if you want to keep the costs down.

Your lifestyle

If you’re a smoker or heavy drinker, this will affect the cost of your premium as you’ll be viewed as having a high risk of developing health problems. Living a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the costs.

Your excess level

The more excess you can pay, the more you’ll be contributing to your healthcare costs. This means your premium will be lower. Just be sure you can afford to pay the excess amount you offer.

How Can I Reduce the Cost of Health Insurance?

If you need private health insurance but you’re on a budget, the good news is that there are ways of reducing the cost of your premium. Below you’ll find some easy ways of doing so.

Quit smoking

Unhealthy lifestyle choices such as smoking can increase the cost of your premium as you’ll be at a higher risk of developing conditions such as cancer. Quitting smoking can dramatically reduce how much you pay for your insurance.

If you quit after you’ve purchased the insurance, be sure to tell your provider, as they may give you a reduced premium.

Co-payment option

Sometimes, you’ll be given the option to pay a certain amount towards the claim and your excess amount, which is called a co-payment. Reducing the cost of your claim means you can lower the expense of your monthly cover.

Increase your voluntary excess

Your excess is what you offer to pay towards the claim before your insurance provider pays for the rest. If you can afford to pay a higher excess amount, it can show insurers that you’ll only claim if you need to. This can result in more affordable premiums.

Evaluate the benefits of your job package

Please have a look at your job package’s benefits, as one of them could be health insurance. Before buying your own, check to see if this is the case.

Your company may offer free healthcare

Some companies offer their employees free healthcare. Before you go ahead and purchase insurance, check with your employer to see if this is a company benefit you can use.

Remove whatever you don’t need

Having treatments and procedures on your policy that you don’t need means you could be paying more unnecessarily. Consider if there’s anything you can remove from your policy to cut down on costs.

Compare health insurance quotes

One of the easiest and most effective ways of getting the best deal on your private health insurance is to compare quotes from different providers. This can help you find the most affordable premium for you.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle

People who lead healthy lifestyles generally pay less for their private health insurance cover. This is because they’re less likely to become ill and make a claim. Exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight can all help to keep your insurance costs down.

Consider taking a six-week option

A six-week option means you’ll only make a private health insurance claim if you can’t get an NHS appointment within six weeks. This can help decrease your insurance expenses because you’re less likely to make a claim.

Remove extra levels of cover

If you don’t need additional cover levels, taking them off your policy could help keep the cost of your premium down. This is because you’ll only be paying for the level of cover that you need.

Reduce the number of preferred hospitals on your list

If you don’t mind which hospital you’re treated at, reducing the list of your preferred hospitals can cut down the cost of your premium. It’s essentially a reward for being flexible about which hospital you go to.

How to Get a Health Insurance Quote?

Getting a private health insurance quote couldn’t be easier. All you have to do is provide us with some information about you and your medical history, plus which type and level of cover you want.

Once you’ve provided these details, we’ll give you suitable quotes that have been tailored to your needs and requirements. From there, you’ll be able to compare quotes by the annual or monthly costs as well as any extras that are included.

Keep in mind that the cheapest option won’t always be the best. It’s a good idea to look for a quote that combines good coverage with an affordable price to ensure you get the best deal. If you’re having trouble deciding which quote to choose, our friendly experts are here to help!

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Why Compare Health Insurance Quotes with Utility Saving Expert?

Here at Utility Saving Expert, we believe that everyone should have the opportunity to find the best private health insurance policy when they need it most. With the cost of private healthcare as expensive as it is, we’ve aimed to help our customers find the most affordable private health insurance plan for them.

The online comparison tool is a great way to find tailored quotes, compare deals, and find the best policy for you and your family. We work with some of the UK’s top insurance providers, so you can be sure you’ll get only the best deals.

Need health insurance? Compare quotes with Utility Saving Expert today.

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Are There Other Types of Health Insurance?

Yes, other types of insurance include dental insurance, healthcare cash plans, diagnostics insurance, and condition-specific insurance.

  • Dental insurance: Dental insurance can provide cover for routine appointments as well as the expense of dental injury treatments and emergencies. You’ll pay for your dental visit first and then make a claim. You can also go to either a private or NHS clinic.
  • Cash plans: Healthcare cash plans involve you paying a monthly fee that covers your routine checkups such as eye tests or dental checkups. This is different to private health insurance, which provides cover for treatment of any problems that develop after you’ve bought the insurance.
  • Diagnostics insurance: Diagnostics insurance provides access to diagnostic tests and consultant appointments that can help you find the root cause of your medical issue. Unlike private health insurance, it doesn’t pay for the treatment, only the diagnostics costs.
  • Condition-specific insurance: If you’re happy to stay with NHS treatments, but you have a specific health problem you need help with, condition-specific insurance offers an affordable plan that targets your condition, supplementing your NHS care.
Will my health insurance cover me if I travel outside of the UK?

No, generally, most private health insurance policies don’t provide the cover if you become ill whilst you’re abroad, but be sure to confirm this with your insurance provider as different policies can vary.

If your policy does cover you abroad, it may only extend to emergency treatment. Because of this, you’ll need to buy medical travel insurance if you travel abroad, so you’re protected should the worst happens.

Is private health insurance subject to any age restrictions?

Usually, only those aged 18 or over can purchase private health insurance, but under-18s can generally be added to a parent or guardian’s insurance policy.

There may also be an upper age limit for health insurance. But, even if there isn’t an age limit, you’ll usually pay more as you get older due to being prone to injury and at a higher risk of falling ill.

Is it possible to add other people to my private insurance policy?

Yes, most of the time, you can. If you buy joint health insurance, your partner can be added to your plan, and family insurance means you can add your children to the policy.

Some policies offer free cover for newborn babies, but there may be some limitations, so be sure to check with your insurer about this particular cover if you’ve had a new baby. Don’t forget to shop around and compare quotes with Utility Saving Expert to find the perfect deal for you and your loved ones!