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It’s easy enough for most people to understand the benefits of health insurance – especially in the depths of a pandemic. But ‘how much will it actually cost me?’ is always the million-dollar question. It seems like a straightforward query, yet there is rarely a straightforward answer. To understand why this is, it is first important to understand a little bit about how health insurance works.
Also known as private medical insurance, or PMI; health insurance is an insurance policy which covers the cost of private healthcare. It does not compete with the NHS; it complements it to achieve reduced waiting times and access to additional treatments and medications. It also makes the whole process more comfortable; with choice over hospitals and consultants and access to private en-suite rooms instead of wards.
Policies are extremely flexible and can be tailored to include access to the exact private healthcare package you are looking for. This is great for achieving accessible private healthcare and ensuring the best possible value; but it does make understanding how much health insurance will cost you, difficult to do at-a-glance.
It is possible to get an individual adult health insurance policy through us for as little as £8/month, but assuming you’re not 18 and only looking for a basic cover, it’s fair to assume you will pay more than this. But how much more?
The below price indications are based on an individual who; lives in the same postcode as our Gloucestershire Head Quarters in Gloucestershire, is a non-smoker who is generally in good health and happy to pay a £250 excess for a mid-range policy.
So why is it so difficult to give an accurate idea of how much a health insurance policy will cost? The simple reason is there are lots and lots of variables.
However, all the factors affecting premium prices, fit into two categories:
Whilst your circumstances – things like your age and where you live - can have a big influence on your policy premiums, they are not things you are likely to be able to change. The level of cover however, is all up to you - you can pick and choose the things which are important to you and those which fit your budget.
The older you are, the more likely you are to require healthcare treatments and claim on a policy; thus the more you are seen as a risk to an insurer. This does make policies more expensive the older you are, and they will increase fairly significantly for the over 50s.
Where you live can have a big impact on price. This can be due to the hospitals you have access to in your hospital list being more expensive. It can also be because the insurers have seen higher than average claims in your area historically. Some insurers seem to place higher emphasis on this than others when calculating premiums so it is always worth investigating all the options with one of our advisers. London hospitals are notoriously more expensive - if you don’t live in London however, you can reduce the premium with a reduced hospital list.
Current Health Status
Your BMI, whether you smoke, pre-existing conditions and previous treatments can all be considered when calculating your premiums. You can use this to your advantage with some companies though; by tracking your healthy habits to earn rewards and reduce your premiums. Whether you smoke or don't can impact the cost of the policy, although some providers don't ask you to pay more because you smoke. Pre-existing conditions can be handled differently depending on the underwriting you choose – more about this below.
In-patient treatment is any treatment where the patient occupies a hospital bed overnight or longer – for example someone recovering from surgery. Health insurance core cover usually always includes inpatient treatment as standard. Outpatient treatment, however, refers to things like diagnostic tests, consultations and procedures which do not require a hospital bed. Outpatient treatment can be covered in full, in part (usually up to a pre-determined value), or not at all. Choosing a policy with full outpatient cover will be more expensive than one with just inpatient treatments covered.
A policy excess is a chosen figure you agree to pay towards a claim. So, for example if you had treatment worth £5000 and you had a £300 excess on the policy, you would pay £300 towards the treatment and your insurer would pay the £4700.
In some cases, you’re not required to have an excess, so you wouldn’t have anything to pay when you claim. Sometimes insurers can insist upon a ‘compulsory excess’ - the minimum amount they require.
There is also what is known as ‘voluntary excess’. This is an additional amount which you agree you are comfortable to cover in the instance you need to make a claim on the policy. Some excess payments are only due once in a year, whilst others are due per claim. The lower your excess, the more you will pay in the monthly premiums.
Being covered for cancer and benefitting from access to breakthrough treatments - not necessarily available on the NHS - is a hugely valued benefit of health insurance. Most health insurance policies include full cancer cover within their core cover, but the level of cover and what’s included can vary and subsequently alter the premium.
Some health insurance policies offer a completely holistic approach and can include everything from physiotherapy, osteopath, chiropractic and more. This is great if you are likely to make the most of these sorts of treatments, but a waste if you won’t as they will increase your premiums. Most insurers offer these as optional extras and they are completely flexible about which you may want to be covered for and those you don’t.
Dentistry & Optician
Some policies can include dental and optician cover within the package which obviously makes their premiums higher. Again, this is usually an optional extra which can be included or not as your own choice.
Most insurers offer some ongoing support for maintaining good mental health as part of their basic core cover. Access to a Digital GP is common, as well as benefits like Vitality’s discounts on mindfulness apps or Bupa’s mental health support team on the phone. However, many insurers also include an optional extra mental health package. AXA’s mental health optional extra for example extends your cover to include mental health treatment as an in-patient or day-patient. Psychiatric treatment, including accommodation tests and drugs would all be included, with no limits on; specialist fees, treatment by psychologists and cognitive-behavioural therapists.
The way your policy is underwritten doesn’t have a huge effect on price but can vary it slightly. Full medical underwriting can sometimes cost less than moratorium. But you will need to disclose your current health when you apply, and if you were to have pre-existing conditions you needed to disclose, this may increase your premiums or mean those conditions aren’t covered.
How you pay
Some insurers will charge less per year if you are able to pay annually instead of monthly.
What is the Cost of Private Health Cover for me?
To give you a better idea of some premium quotes and their relative changes depending upon cover type, I have used myself as an example.
I am a 34-year-old, healthy, non-smoker, living near our headquarters in Gloucestershire. I have assumed I do not have a current policy, so I am looking for a new policy, and I am happy to pay an excess.
Below are three examples of different policies, providing different levels of cover, and the most cost-effective quote for me.
Basic Health Insurance
£30.74 per month
Mid-level Health Insurance
£44.26 per month
Comprehensive Health Insurance
For complete peace of mind and access to all the benefits of
£64.10 per month
As the leading intermediary in the country, advising on the top insurers in the UK, with over 166,000 satisfied customers – we can tell you what our clients have paid on average between 1st October 2019 – 1st October 2020:
Average Premium Prices:
Individual Policy (all ages) - £97.07 per month (£1164.81 per year)
Family - £154.79 per month (£1857.47 per year)
Couple - £186.51 per month (£2238.16 per year)
Single Parent - £84.38 (£1012.54 per year)
Child Only - £27.33 (£327.92 per year)
Our average age of customer for the same time period was 50 years of age.
The million-dollar question may be how much health insurance costs, but the most important thing is the value it provides to you. Hopefully this article has given you a better idea of what influences health insurance premiums and how much cover might cost you.
We are incredibly lucky in the UK to have access to a national health service which is free at point of use, so understandably, sometimes people find the additional cost of health insurance unnecessary. It’s important to remember however, that private healthcare doesn’t compete with the NHS. The NHS is great at dealing with emergencies, chronic conditions, pregnancy and essential care – and this will always be available to you. Health insurance allows you go above and beyond though; to prioritise your health, to be proactive about protecting it and - should you need it - it gives you the peace of mind that the best treatments will be available to you, without the wait. There really is nothing in this life more valuable than our health and if you want to ensure that you remain in the best health you possibly can, health insurance is excellent value.
We have certainly seen an increase in numbers of people taking out policies with us, especially in the uncertainty of the current pandemic. Ultimately health insurance is providing peace of mind – to alleviate your concerns and allow you to make the most out of life. Those worries and concerns will be different for everyone and will require different types of cover. But we believe there is a policy to suit everyone and every budget.
The most important thing is to make sure you know all the options and that you are getting the cheapest quotes for the cover you are interested in. Our expert advisers are on the end of the phones locally and will take all the hassle away from finding the perfect policy for you.