Best private health insurance in the UK

Based on customer reviews, industry awards and private health insurance coverage, we found that the following companies are currently the best private health insurance providers in the UK (in alphabetical order):

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"I  requested a policy review having been with Bupa for over 10 years and was astonished by the savings I've made on mine and my husband's policy. If you're thinking about reviewing your policy do it, you won't be disappointed. "

by Erica - 27th April 2022
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Our in-depth reviews of the top health insurers in the UK

Here are our eight in-depth reviews of the top private healthcare providers in the UK. We hope they give you a better understanding of the key differences between the insurers and their flagship policies.

Please remember that the best policy for you will be different to someone else, and we haven't been able to cover every fine detail about each of these companies here. When you're ready, we recommend speaking to a health insurance broker as they can help you narrow down the options and find the right private health insurance for you!

To get a free comparison quote from one of our high-rated partners, click one of the comparison buttons on this page. It only takes 2 minutes, and you'll get personalised advice.

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WPA

Our Rating 4.7
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WPA is fast establishing itself as one of the most popular private health insurers in the UK. WPA is a non-profit organisation, which means they do things a little differently from most of the others we've reviewed. The only downside with WPA is that their cover is only available to those under 65s, but aside from that, we think they are brilliant.

WPA Flexible Health: Premier & Elite

WPA's flagship policy is called "Flexible Health", and you have two options to choose from "Premier" or Elite". Both WPA Flexible Health Premier and Elite are comprehensive policies with excellent cancer coverage and one of the market's best consultant and hospital lists.

Policy highlights

Similarly to some of the other leading health insurers, WPA takes a community approach to how they rate their scheme. This means individual claims won't affect the cost of your renewals.

Somewhat uniquely to WPA, providing you upgrade your outpatient cover, therapies cover is included as standard, with most other providers charging extra for it. In addition, WPA gives you free dental cover, with £200 a year towards general dental costs (with outpatient cover), which is both generous and rare amongst the insurers we've reviewed.

Finally, WPA is one of the most liberal regarding who you're treated by giving unrestricted consultant choice and access to most private hospitals in the UK (bar a few in central London unless you pay extra). Granted, WPA won't always be the cheapest. Still, in a closely fought battle, our experts agree that WPA is currently the UK's best private health insurance provider.

Key benefits
  • Excellent core product, which gives you more cover than most
  • Community rated scheme - individual claims don't affect renewals
  • High levels of customer satisfaction as we'll go on to detail
  • Unrestricted consultant access and an excellent hospital list
  • Therapies and dental cover included as standard with outpatient cover
  • Discounts of up to 20% for self-employed and professional workers
  • Amazing online app for claim registration and management
  • Extensive cancer cover
  • Non-profit so more can be invested into its members
  • Shared responsibility excess, reducing the amount you pay towards each claim
  • Excellent outpatient cover if selected
Key disadvantages
  • No cover for the over 65s
Trustpilot Reviews

WPA has one of the highest ratings of any private health insurance companies we've reviewed, scoring an impressive 4.7 out of 5 on Trustpilot. This doesn't surprise us, as the value you get from their policies speaks for itself.

Defaqto Ratings

Defaqto has awarded WPA's Flexible Health Premier and Elite with a four-star and five-star rating, respectively, demonstrating the comprehensiveness of their flagship policies.

We, with Defaqto, recognise how good WPA's policies are and, alongside that, the high levels of customer satisfaction amongst its members.

More information

If you'd like to know more about WPA Flexible Health Premier and Elite please click on the PDF links below to download their policy documentation.

Compare private health insurance

It's always wise to compare private health insurance with a broker before you buy, as they can give you free advice on finding the best policy for you. To request a free health insurance quote from one of our recommended brokers, click the button below.

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The Exeter

Our Rating 4.6
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The Exeter is a friendly society that offers everything from private health insurance to life and income protection. As The Exeter has “mutual” status and they don’t have shareholders, they are free to invest profits back into the business to the benefit of its members and staff.

The Exeter Health+

The Exeter Health+ is among the leading private health insurance policies we've reviewed and is undoubtedly worth your consideration if you're looking for a policy. The policy and company stand out from both a comprehensiveness and customer service perspective.

Everything you'd expect to be included is why it has a five-star Defaqto rating, but in addition to that, you have a great deal of flexibility when it comes to tailoring your policy.

Policy highlights

The Exeter is the only private health insurance provider to offer a choice of either a traditional "protectable" no claims discount or a "community-rated" system where claims don't impact renewals.

When it comes to tailoring your policy, you're spoilt for choice. You've got the option to adjust things like the amount of cover you have for physiotherapy, for example.

Finally, something which stands out to us is that they are the only provider that offers the option of a "community-rated" scheme to individuals between the ages of 70 and 80.

Key benefits
  • Excellent core product
  • Numerous options to tailor your healthcare plan
  • Outpatient surgery included in the base product
  • Extensive cancer cover
  • Options to add extra cover such as physical therapies and more
  • High levels of customer satisfaction
  • Owned by its members
  • A choice between a protectable no claims discount or a community-rated scheme
  • Various member discounts and rewards
  • One of the best for paying claims
  • Discounts for families and couples
Key disadvantages
  • No option to include dental cover or travel insurance
Trustpilot Reviews

The Exeter collects its health insurance reviews feedback via Trustpilot, where it has an impressive score of 4.6 out of 5 from over 600 reviews.

While they haven't got as many reviews as some of the other health insurance providers detailed here, the score is on par or, if not better than most we've reviewed.

Defaqto Rating

The Exeter's Health+ has a 5-star Defaqto rating, which shows the comprehensiveness and quality of their private health insurance policy. We think it's an excellent choice too, for individuals and families alike.

More information

If you'd like to know more about The Exeter Health+ please click on the PDF links below to download their policy documentation.

Compare The Exeter against other providers

It's usually best to speak to an independent broker before you buy a policy, as they'll be able to help you find the right private health insurance for you.

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Axa  Health

Our Rating 4.5
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Axa Heath is one of the big four private health insurance providers in the UK, incorporating several well-known brands such as Health-on-line and Axa PPP Healthcare under one roof to deliver first-class service to close to a million people.

Axa Personal Health

Firstly, while Axa's core private health insurance policy doesn't include certain things, such as outpatient cover, it can be added to your policy for an additional fee. Some may see this as an advantage, as ultimately, it gives you more control over what's included.

With Axa Health's core product, you get access to inpatient treatment and day-patient private treatment at over 250 hospitals across the UK, alongside various other benefits.

Axa Personal Health

When we reviewed Axa's Personal Health insurance policy, numerous things stood out to us. Firstly, Axa's "Standard" outpatient cover includes unlimited diagnostic tests and three consultations per year. This level of cover, in our minds, is more generous than others that limit you to either £1,000 or £1,500 per year of outpatient consultations and diagnostic tests.

Similarly to some other providers, Axa allows you to protect your no claims discount, which is great if you've gone many years without claiming. Another significant differentiator is that Axa doesn't limit your therapies cover, so you can see a physio or chiropractor as many times as you need to under your policy.

Key benefits
  • Excellent cancer and heart cover
  • Cover for diagnostic surgery, CT, MRI and PET scans
  • Cover for radiotherapy and chemotherapy
  • Generous Standard outpatient cover
  • Comprehensive cover for acute illnesses (excludes pre-existing conditions)
  • Fast Track Appointments for diagnostics (with outpatient cover)
  • Choice of over 250 private hospitals
  • Market-leading no claims discount scheme
  • Speech therapy for children under 14 (6 sessions)
  • 24/7 private healthcare with their Health at Hand service
  • Telephone support from a dedicated nurse helpline
  • Various discounts and rewards for members
Key disadvantages
  • Outpatient cover not included (optional extra)
  • Headline prices are typically for guided consultants, meaning you won't get as much choice over who treats you. However, you can opt for non-guided for a higher premium.
Axa Health Feefo Reviews

Axa Health has collected 7,482 reviews on Feefo. According to their website, they have an overall customer satisfaction rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars. In the past 12 months, based on 323 reviews, their rating has dropped to 4.3, so perhaps things haven't gone quite as smoothly recently. Either way, these scores are mainly comparable to some of the other top private health insurers. Given that they are based on thousands of reviews, it's a good indication of their service level.

Defaqto Rating

Defaqto has awarded Axa Health a five-star rating in their 2022 health insurance reviews. However, that rating has been given based on the overall product, including the optional components, not just the core policy. We'd expect that many of you are looking for the best private medical insurance policy, so you will, in any case, take out many of the additional options Axa provides. 

More information

If you'd like to know more about Axa Personal Health, please click on the PDF links below to download their policy documentation.

Compare policies before you buy

To get a free comparison quote before you buy, click the button below, and one of our highly-rated PMI brokers will be in touch.

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Freedom Health Insurance

Our Rating 4.5
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Freedom Health Insurance is one of the new guards of notable health insurance providers, founded in 2003 in Poole (not far from us, actually). Freedom offers both private and business policies, but we'll focus on the former in this review.

Freedom Elite Health Insurance

Freedom market their Elite Health insurance as flexible private health insurance tailored to your requirements and budget. Their core cover is comprehensive, giving you an excellent foundation to go on and build your healthcare plan.

Similarly to other providers, Freedom Elite gives you inpatient treatment and day-patient tests and treatments, with outpatient cover being an additional add-on.

Policy highlights

Perhaps the most significant difference between Freedom's private health insurance and the others we've reviewed is that they offer a renewal price guarantee to all new customers. Whether you make a claim or not, your premium will not rise in the first two years.

Like some other top providers, Freedom operates a "community-rated scheme", so your claims won't usually affect your premiums. 

Another important benefit of Freedom Health Insurance is that they have no restrictions on consultant choice. You can access nearly all private hospitals in the UK, including NHS hospitals offering private patient facilities. The only exceptions are HCA hospitals, although you can pay extra to include them if you wish.

Finally, they are the sole provider that doesn't set your premiums based on your postcode; this is especially useful for families living in traditionally expensive areas such as London.

Key benefits
  • 2-year guaranteed premium, no increase in the first two years
  • A flexible policy that can be tailored to your budget and needs
  • Comprehensive cover for private medical care where a hospital stay is required (excludes pre-existing conditions)
  • Prices not based on your postcode
  • Community rated scheme - your claims won't usually affect your premiums
  • Access to nearly all private hospitals and consultants in the UK (bar HCA hospitals which can be included for an additional fee)
  • Excellent cancer cover (diagnosis only included with optional outpatient cover)
  • Option to add alternative therapies, dental and optical cover
  • Option to include outpatient consultations, scans and tests (annual limits apply)
  • Cover for pregnancy complications
  • Cover for MRI, CT and PET scans
Key disadvantages
  • No option to add travel cover
Feefo Reviews

Freedom Health Insurance currently has a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars via the reviews platform Feefo. However, it has to be said that the number of reviews they've collected (135 and just 40 in the past year) is measly in comparison to the thousands some of the other private health insurers have received. It's not to say the reviews shouldn't be trusted; it's just when the level of customer reviews is so low, it makes it harder to understand how they are performing as a whole.

Defaqto Rating

Freedom's Defaqto rating for 2022 is four stars, which is still excellent but indicates that their policies aren't as comprehensive as others we've featured here.

They have won several industry awards from The UK Health Protection Awards for "Best individual healthcare provider", so they are well thought of in the market, and we agree.

More information

If you'd like to know more about Freedom Elite Health Insurance, please click on the PDF links below to download their policy documentation.

Compare the best UK health insurance companies

To ensure Freedom is the right provider for you, we recommend speaking to a private medical insurance broker who can perform a market comparison. They'll offer impartial advice and ensure that you get the best deal based on your requirements and circumstance. Click the button below to get a comparison quote.

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Bupa

Our Rating 4.4
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Bupa is synonymous with private health insurance in the UK. Far from just providing medical insurance, they deliver care. With their extensive network of private hospitals and clinics across the UK and comprehensive private health insurance policies, you're in good hands with Bupa.

Bupa By You Comprehensive

Bupa offers two types of private health insurance, Treatment and Care, their low-cost product and Comprehensive. This post is dedicated to the best health insurance, so we will concentrate on their flagship policy.

As we explain, Bupa Comprehensive is an excellent policy that covers everything you might expect and more. Perhaps most notably, they include mental health cover as standard, which isn't the case with all providers. To learn more, please read our detailed Bupa health insurance review.

Policy highlights

Bupa is one of the only providers we've reviewed that will allow you to get direct support for cancer without needing to see a GP first. With Bupa Direct Access, one of Bupa's advisers will discuss your symptoms with you and, if required, refer you directly to a specialist.

Bupa also doesn't have an age restriction for new customers, with others not accepting applicants after their 65th or 70th birthdays. Finally, therapies and mental health coverage are included as standard, albeit only up to your outpatient limits.

Key benefits
  • Excellent inpatient and outpatient mental health treatment cover as standard
  • Comprehensive cover for acute illnesses (excludes pre-existing conditions)
  • Extensive cancer cover
  • Direct referral to cancer specialists via Bupa Direct Access
  • Includes outpatient consultations, scans and tests (annual limits apply)
  • Customers of any age welcome
  • Access to breakthrough cancer drugs
  • 24/7 access to their Digital GP via Babylon
  • Outpatient physiotherapy and other therapies (annual limits apply)
  • Choice of three hospital lists (Essential, Extended & Extended with Central London)
  • 10% discount for families
  • Extensive member reward and discount programme
Key disadvantages
  • No option to protect your no claims discount
  • You are restricted to Bupa recognised consultants and hospitals
  • Cancer treatment is only paid in full when you use a Bupa recognised facility
Trustpilot Reviews

Bupa has collected some 13,800 reviews on Trustpilot and has a 4.4 out of 5 stars rating. While impressive and very good, that score isn't quite as high as others we feature, which indicates a slightly lower level of satisfaction amongst its customers.

Defaqto Rating

Bupa Comprehensive has continually scored a 5-star Defaqto rating for several years, and 2022 is no different. The award is a stamp of approval and demonstrates that Bupa's flagship policy stands up against others in the market in terms of comprehensiveness.

More information

If you'd like to know more about Bupa health insurance, please click on the PDF links below to download their policy documentation.

Compare policies before you buy private health insurance

To ensure Bupa is the right provider for you, we recommend speaking to a private health insurance broker who can perform a market comparison.
You can either visit the AMII website to find a list of brokers or click the button below to request a free comparison quote via one of our recommended partners.

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National Friendly

Our Rating 4.4
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National Friendly are perhaps one of the lesser-known private health insurers we've selected to review. Far from being just a private medical insurance provider, National Friendly has been helping people manage their financial lives since 1868! In our opinion, they are right up there with some of the more established players and well worth your consideration for several reasons.

National Friendly Optimum Private Health Insurance

National Friendly's private health insurance plan is called Optimum. They promise a fair and friendly approach to medical insurance; on the whole, we agree that they deliver on that promise. Their straightforward policy information details what's covered and what's not, and they go further than any other to keep your premiums at a manageable level.

Policy highlights

One of the biggest draws of a National Friendly UK health insurance policy is that any claims you make won't affect your renewal premiums in the first five years. The only increases you can expect will be due to your age and medical inflation, not your personal claims history. When you get to your 5-year review, they'll then offer you the choice of an increase in your health insurance premiums or an exclusion. This approach to claims history is perhaps the fairest in the market today.

National Friendly also stack up well when it comes to their hospital list. They offer one of the most comprehensive lists on the market, with very few exclusions.

Finally, you can reduce your excess to zero, and there will be very little change in your premiums. As you can tell, while they might not be the biggest player in the market, they know how to look after their members.

Key benefits
  • Claims will not impact renewal premiums until your 5-year review
  • Policies are split between inpatient treatment and outpatient cover, so you can choose which you'd like or have both
  • Almost no increase in price to have zero excess
  • Option for a very affordable £5,000 outpatient limit
  • Extremely comprehensive hospital list
  • Counselling and psychotherapy sessions included
  • Comprehensive cover from diagnosis through to private medical treatment
  • No add-on fees for switching from another provider
  • No "no claims bonus" to make pricing more straightforward
  • Discounts for taking out both inpatient and outpatient cover
Key disadvantages
  • MRI, CT and PET scans come out of your outpatient limit
  • Cancer cover doesn't cover stem cell therapy and bone marrow transplants
  • No option for mental health treatment
  • No unlimited outpatient option
  • Overall limit of £1,000,000 (no other comprehensive plans have this)
Trustpilot Reviews

National Friendly collect reviews via Trustpilot and currently enjoys an outstanding score of 4.8 out of 5 stars, one of the highest of any provider we've reviewed. However, that is only from 152 reviews, making them perhaps less representative of their service than other providers with thousands. Even so, it's brilliant that they've got such favourable reviews from their customers.

Defaqto Rating

National Friendly's Defaqto rating has been calculated based on their two individual policies (inpatient treatment and outpatient) rather than both of them together. Individually, both of their policies score two stars, but we can't help but think that this is slightly unfair from Defaqto. We say this because some of the more prominent providers received scores based on their core policies and additional options, like outpatient treatment. You would think that the same rules would apply to National Friendly?

Defaqto tends to focus on choice, and National Friendly may have been penalised for not having an unlimited outpatient option and an overall plan limit (although at £1,000,000, this is still significant).

Therefore, when looking at National Friendly's policies, we suggest that you judge their joint Dafaqto ratings, not their individual scores.

More information

If you'd like to know more about National Friendly, please click on the PDF links below to download their documentation.

Compare policies before you buy private health insurance

To ensure National Friendly is the right provider for you, we recommend speaking to a private health insurance broker who can perform a market comparison. Click the button below to request a free comparison quote via one of our recommended partners.

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Vitality

Our Rating 4.3
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Vitality (formerly Pruhealth) is one of the big four health insurance companies in the UK, albeit with a smaller (but growing) market share. With their distinctive bright pink livery and sausage dog mascot, you'd be hard-pressed not to have seen them.

Vitality Personal Healthcare

It's easy to see why people are switching to Vitality with a very competitive price point and a five-star Defaqto rating. Vitality changed the market for the better when they entered it, and today, they still lead the way in innovation.

What sets Vitality apart is its commitment to providing cover when you need it, encouraging healthy living, and rewarding you for keeping in shape and looking after yourself.

Policy highlights

As we've mentioned, probably the most significant difference between Vitality and other private health insurers is how far they go to encourage a healthy lifestyle amongst their customers. Through an extensive health incentive and discount programme, you can access a wide range of benefits, just for looking after yourself.

Unique to Vitality is a 10% discount for all new customers if you haven't required any hospital treatment or specialist advice in the three years before your plan starts. This discount is brilliant for people that come to Vitality with a clean bill of health, and as we say, no one else in the market offers this.

Another benefit is that your renewal premiums are linked directly to your health, so again, take care of yourself, and your premiums will reflect it.

Key benefits
  • Full Cover Promise - if you're admitted to hospital, they promise to pay all of your hospital fees, consultant and anaesthetist fees in full (which isn't the case with all providers)
  • Cover for acute illnesses (excludes pre-existing conditions)
  • Online doctor appointments and 24/7 access to a medical helpline
  • Extensive discount and rewards programme to offset the cost of your policy
  • Mental health support included (not full cover)
  • Excellent cancer treatment cover
  • Access to breakthrough cancer drugs
  • Menopause support service
  • 10% discount for new customers without any recent medical issues (3 years)
  • Renewals linked to your health status
Key disadvantages
  • Renewal premiums are linked to health status and claims. If you can't evidence activity, prices can rise more sharply.
Trustpilot Reviews

Vitality collects feedback via Trustpilot, where it has over 24,000 reviews at the time of writing, with a score of 4.2 out of 5 stars. While good, it's not as high as others we've featured. We should point out that this score is for the company as a whole and not just for their private health insurance.

Defaqto Rating

Vitality Personal Healthcare has an impressive 5-star Defaqto rating, which shows the comprehensiveness and quality of their product.

Not all providers we've featured have achieved this, so Vitality should be applauded for making their private health insurance stack up so well against others in the market.

More information

If you'd like to know more about Vitality Personal Healthcare, please click on the PDF links below to download their policy documentation.

Compare Vitality Personal Healthcare

To ensure Vitality is the right provider for you, we always recommend speaking to a health insurance broker who can perform a market comparison for you. Click the button below to request a free comparison quote via one of our highly-rated partners.

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Aviva

Our Rating 4.1
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It may come as a surprise that Aviva is the largest insurance company in the UK, with approximately 18 million customers! Of course, that's not just UK health insurance, but still, that's a sizable proportion of the population of the UK that looks to them for some form of protection.

Aviva Healthier Solutions

Aviva's leading private health insurance policy is "Healthier Solutions", and it's what we would describe as a comprehensive policy. It gives you access to a network of hundreds of hospitals and health clinics across the UK as both an inpatient and outpatient.

Policy Highlights

Several things stand out about Aviva's health insurance compared to some of the others we've reviewed. Firstly, Aviva offers a "protectable" no claims discount to minimise the effect of claims against your renewal cost.

Next, new customers have a "renewal price guarantee" under which Aviva commits to not increasing your premiums on your first renewal, providing you haven't made a claim. Finally, they have many ways to reduce the cost of your policy by limiting your choice of hospitals and consultants and even agreeing to use the NHS if treatment is available within six weeks. Great for the budget-conscious amongst you.

Key benefits
  • Extensive cancer treatment cover as standard
  • Excellent cover for acute medical conditions
  • Access to hundreds of private medical facilities (choose between Expert Select or a hospital list)
  • Around the clock access to a Digital GP
  • 24-hour stress counselling helpline
  • Discount for couples taking out policies
  • Add two or more children (under 19), and the youngest goes free
Key disadvantages
  • By default, you'll use their "Expert Select" hospital list, limiting you to the hospitals and consultants Aviva chooses for you.
  • There is only limited cover for mental health therapies included in the core product, primarily self-service content and telephone hotlines. You can enhance your cover for an additional fee, however.
Trustpilot Reviews

Aviva has collected over 20,000 reviews on Trustpilot and has a 4.6 out of 5 stars, rated "Excellent". We should point out that these reviews aren't specifically for their Healthier Solutions policy. Still, we believe it shows that customers of Aviva are happy with the service they provide.

Defaqto Rating

Aviva's Healthier Solutions has been awarded a coveted 5-star rating from Defaqto for 2022.was awarded its coveted five-star rating. One thing to note is that alongside Healthier Solutions, Aviva also offers a basic private health insurance policy called "Speedier Diagnostics". That policy received only one star from Defaqto.

More information

If you'd like to know more about Aviva Healthier Solutions, please click on the PDF links below to download their policy documentation or read our Aviva health insurance review.

More information and how to buy

To make sure that Aviva  is the right provider for you, we always recommend speaking to a health insurance broker who can perform a market comparison. Click the button below to request a free comparison health insurance quote from one of our highly-rated partners.

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Health Insurance Buying Guide

Health insurance company reviews UK

What is private health insurance?

Health insurance covers the cost of private treatment if you become unwell. i.e. if you need medical treatment, your private health insurance pays for it. What is covered and isn't varies significantly between providers and the policy you choose, and your medical history.

As we'll explain, all of the best health insurance plans will include the cost of inpatient treatment and day-patient treatment (where you're admitted to hospital). Still, it's only more comprehensive policies, often with addons applied, covering you for outpatient treatments and even tests.

How private health insurance works

Here is a short explanation of how private medical insurance in the UK works. There are two main types of health insurance policies you can choose from: a basic plan that covers you primarily for inpatient treatment or a more comprehensive health insurance policy, which will also give you access to outpatient treatment and diagnostic tests.


You would be expected to go through the NHS with a basic policy to receive a diagnosis, and then, if eligible, you'll be treated privately. Conversely, with a comprehensive plan, after you've seen your GP, everything else will take place in a private healthcare setting. All of your tests and consultations leading up to a diagnosis will take place privately. In addition, outpatient cover gives you access to specialist treatment for more minor conditions, where an overnight stay in hospital isn't required.

Underwriting options

We're not going to go to great lengths to explain underwriting here, but we should point out that it will play a key role in your policy and price. Most private medical insurance works on a moratorium underwriting basis. However, full medical underwriting might be a better choice if you have a more complex medical history. When you speak to a health insurance broker, they'll be able to help you decide which type of underwriting is best suited to your circumstances.

Benefits of health insurance

Generally speaking, you can expect all of the following benefits from a health insurance plan:

  • Private treatment is often faster, bypassing NHS waiting lists
  • Access to private consultants and specialists
  • Drugs and specialist treatment options that may not be available via the NHS
  • A private room if you're admitted to hospital
  • More choice over who provides your treatment
  • Various rewards, discounts and member incentives
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What does private health insurance cover?

Private health insurance covers the costs associated with treating acute medical conditions, meaning those which, generally speaking, you can recover from. 

Even the most basic policies will cover the cost of being treated in a private hospital where you require a bed for a day or overnight. However, you'll need to be diagnosed via the NHS first before receiving your inpatient treatment privately with those policies. Comprehensive policies typically include outpatient cover, often limited to a monetary value per year. With these policies, all you need is a referral from your GP, and then everything from then onwards will take privately.

All providers and their policies will be different, so take your time when choosing the right one for you. We recommend that you always speak to a qualified broker before deciding. They understand all of the policies and can provide you with individual advice.

Importantly, health insurance doesn't cover pre-existing medical conditions. Most illnesses you've suffered symptoms from or received treatment for in the past five years are automatically excluded. If you don't suffer any symptoms for two years, and your policy is underwritten on a moratorium basis, you'll receive cover after that. Therefore, what is and isn't covered by private medical insurance, depends on your medical history.

Additional policy options

While comprehensive policies will cover a lot, all the health insurers have a range of additional options so you can tailor your cover; these typically include:

  • Outpatient Treatment - usually limited to an annual maximum
  • Therapies Cover - such as physiotherapy (although many will include post-op physiotherapy sessions in their core product)
  • Mental Health Treatment - many policies include access to helplines. Still, you'll usually pay more for access to more extensive private treatment options.
  • Dental and Optical Cover - you can get help towards the cost of routine appointments and check-ups.
  • Travel Insurance - if you want your private health insurance to extend beyond the UK.
  • Unrestricted consultant choice - some providers such as WPA, The Exeter, National Friendly and Freedom don't limit you. Still, the bigger companies tend to, although you can pay for this to be removed.‍
  • Access to more hospitals - all providers operate their hospital lists, and if you want to extend those, you can pay to do so

As you can see, there are plenty of options to choose from, so we suggest that when you compare private health insurance, you speak to a broker. They'll help you navigate all of the complexities and ensure that you get cover for the things you want based on your medical history.

What's excluded?

While you can pay to have lots of things covered, all insurers have exclusions. Generally speaking, these include:

  • Pre-existing medical conditions - your medical history will affect your cover
  • Monitoring of and treatment of long-term (chronic) conditions
  • Emergency treatment
  • Cosmetic treatment
  • Self-harm, alcohol abuse and drug abuse
  • Childbirth, birth control and infertility
  • Treatment that takes place outside the UK

Please note that there are some circumstances where specific exclusions may be covered. For example, some insurers may contribute or cover the cost of cosmetic surgery, which is required due to an operation. If you have questions on this, or perhaps cover based on your personal medical history, please speak to your broker, the health insurer, or review their policy documentation.

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What to look out for when comparing private medical insurance

All health insurers tend to push similar information about their policies, often focusing on cancer treatment cover and outpatient limits. But there are some lesser-known differences that you should pay close attention to, as they will affect you should you make a claim. Here's a quick round-up of some of those subtleties.

1. Whether your claims affect your renewal premiums

Approximately half of the providers we've reviewed will increase your health insurance premiums at renewal if you make a claim, but that isn't always the case. Most common among the smaller providers is a "community-rated" approach to claims, meaning that all of their member's claims are taken into account when calculating renewal premiums. Of course, this can be seen as a benefit and a disadvantage, but bearing in mind many of the insurers offering this are owned by their members, not shareholders, you'd like to think they do it for positive reasons.


The most significant outlier to either of these approaches is National Friendly, which won't factor your or other members' claims into your renewal premiums for the first five years. That's not to say your health insurance premiums won't increase as you age and the cost of private medical treatment goes up. It's just claims won't impact premiums in the short term.

2. Whether your postcode affects your premiums

With most health insurers, where you live in the UK plays a significant role in the cost of your private health insurance. You can expect to pay more if you live in a big city, with more expensive hospitals. Equally, if you happen to live in an area with a high-claim rate, that can increase the cost of your policy too. 

However, some providers don't adjust prices that much based on your postcode (National Friendly), and there's even one that doesn't change them at all (Freedom). So, if you happen to live in a big city, such as London, where the cost of being treated privately is inherently more, one of these providers might be a good fit, assuming everything else fits your requirements.

3. Which hospitals you can access

If you've had private health insurance for several years, you'll be familiar with the restrictions on your policy relating to the hospitals you can choose from should you need treatment. However, it's easily overlooked for anyone new to health insurance, and we think it's something you should bear in mind.

Some health insurers such as WPA, Freedom and National Friendly give you access to any private hospital in the UK, bar some costly ones in central London. While you can pay extra to expand your hospital list with the other insurers, if you don't know you're restricted, you could run the risk of only learning this key difference when you make a claim.

4. Which consultants you can see

Another thing to be mindful of is whether your chosen policy has any restrictions concerning who can treat you. The biggest health insurers, Aviva, Bupa, Axa and Vitality, all operate what's known as "Guided Consultant lists", which means you will be limited to a pool of consultants and specialists. 

There are two potential downsides to "guided consultants". Firstly, if there is a specific consultant you want to treat you, perhaps based on their reputation in the field, they may not be included in your insurer's "pool". Secondly, as you're effectively reducing the number of consultants and specialists you can access, you run the risk of having slightly longer waiting times for private treatment than if you had access to any consultant in the UK.

Several smaller providers don't restrict your consultant choice, namely WPA, National Friendly, Freedom and The Exeter. We should point out that all of the providers offer the option to remove "guided consultants", which will increase the cost of your policy. There is a flipside, of course, which we are sure insurers will argue; opting for guided consultants usually reduces the cost of your policy.

5. What are the maximums insurers will pay towards your private treatment costs

Next is what each insurance provider is willing to pay for specific private treatments. They all have an extensive list of procedures with associated maximum fees they will pay.

While a critical benefit of health insurance is that it covers the cost of being treated privately, it's perhaps less known that you aren't always covered in full! It's only at the point of a claim that you'll come to learn about health insurer "maximum procedure fees", but we'd recommend that it's something you research and speak to your broker about before you take out a policy.

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Is private health insurance worth it?

Health insurance gives you access to private healthcare treatment options should you become unwell, but is it worth it and do you need it?

Strictly speaking, none of us needs private health insurance. We have the NHS in the UK, and they do a fantastic job with the resources available to them. However, at the time of writing, the NHS continues to suffer from record-breaking waiting lists, not just for non-urgent operations but for cancer care too.

Cancer care waiting times are now the longest on record (March 2022)

As highlighted in a recent article from The Guardian, NHS waiting times for cancer treatment in England are now the longest on record, alongside countless other types of urgent care. That’s worrying, of course, and for many, it is the primary reason they take out insurance.

Taking out a policy, even a relatively basic one gives you and your family a head start should the worse happen and one of your fall ill. Take out a comprehensive policy, and everything after an initial GP referral will take place privately, and waiting times are significantly less in the private sector.

So, to answer the original question, yes, private health insurance is worth it, and it’s becoming increasingly valuable while the NHS tries to overcome the current backlog.

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How much does private health insurance cost?

The price of your private health insurance depends on various factors, from your age and postcode to the level of cover and provider you choose.

We’ve recently conducted extensive research into the average cost of the best health insurance, looking at eight providers’ flagship products for people between 20 and 70 years old.  Here is a summary of our findings:

Average cost of private health insurance in the UK (2022)
Age Average Cost (Guided) Average Cost (Non-Guided)
20-years old £37.72* £40.88*
30-years old £48.08* £53.67*
40-years old £59.24* £66.59*
50-years old £75.70* £85.06*
60-years old £109.85* £125.27*
70-years old £175.90* £198.29*
SOURCE: mytribeinsurance.co.uk

*Research conducted in February 2022, we obtained quotes from the 8 best providers for each of the above ages in ten locations across the UK. We set an optional excess of £250, included therapies cover and defaulted to their standard hospital list. All policies included outpatient cover. Please note the price you pay will be different based on your personal circumstances and requirements.
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Compare private health insurance

We hope that you’ve found this guide helpful and informative. Please remember that everything we’ve detailed is meant to inform, and none of our information should be taken as advice. We always recommend that you speak to an independent private health insurance broker before deciding on a policy. They can help you configure your policy, answer any questions you might have and get you the best deal. We recommend two highly rated private health insurance brokers, Sandbourne and Globacare. Both of which provide an excellent service and have been vetted by us here at myTribe. To get free advice and a comparison quote, please click the button below.