What is self-employed health insurance?

Health insurance for the self-employed provides individuals who work for themselves access to a range of private healthcare treatment services in the UK. Much the same as other private health insurance policies, self-employed health insurance can be configured to meet your specific requirements, offering everything from overnight treatment in your hospital of choice through to outpatient diagnosis and even dental care.

Why is health insurance necessary for the self-employed?

As great as the NHS is, it's no secret that it's under pressure, especially after the impact of Covid-19. According to the BMJ, in April 2021, over 4.7 million people were waiting for treatment, a 14 year high. Indeed, over 380,000 of those have been waiting for 12 months or more!

With the self-employed generally only earning when they are working and not receiving sick pay unless they've taken out a separate income protection policy, it's therefore essential that when they are ill, they get better as quickly as possible. For many self-employed individuals, the thought of joining that 4.7 million person NHS queue and potentially not being able to work while they wait is simply untenable. Fortunately, health insurance for the self-employed can help, dramatically speeding up your time to treatment and, therefore, recovery. You also might be surprised to learn that health insurance doesn't always cost a fortune, with many of the entry-level products covering you for some of the most severe illnesses while still being relatively affordable. 

Do you need income protection insurance?

If you're self-employed, we'd recommend that you seriously consider taking out a form of income protection insurance. For many, this is perhaps more important than health insurance, as it covers you for a broader range of illnesses and accidents. Think of it as your sick pay, seeing as you likely aren't eligible for any at present. For more information about income protection insurance, click the link to read our latest guide or get in touch to speak to an adviser.

What is the best health insurance for self-employed?

The best providers and policies for self-employed individuals are:

  • Bupa - Bupa By You Comprehensive
  • Aviva - Aviva Healthier Solutions
  • Axa PPP - Personal Health
  • Vitality - Personal Healthcare
  • The Exeter - Health+

If you run a small limited company, you may find that a small business health insurance policy is a better fit. 

Who can benefit from self-employed health insurance?

Regardless of your profession, health insurance can benefit you if you're self-employed. It provides you with an extra level of protection and numerous benefits should you ever need to call upon it. 

The most common users of self-employed health insurance are:

  • Freelancers
  • Tradespeople
  • Contractors
  • Consultants
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Actors and musician

Benefits of health insurance for someone self-employed

Private medical insurance comes with various benefits, some of which will be unique to your policy and provider, with others being more broadly applicable to everyone. Here are what we consider the main benefits for a self-employed individual:

  1. Be seen and treated faster - avoid delays on NHS waiting lists and get the treatment you need quicker.
  2. Be treated at a time that suits you - choose when and where you are treated, perfect if you have a busy schedule.
  3. Access to the latest drugs - receive treatments that are cost-prohibitive on the NHS.
  4. Choice of consultants - have a bigger say over who is treating you.
  5. Privacy in hospital - get a private room when you are in hospital, with flexible visiting hours.

What is covered by health insurance for the self-employed?

What is and isn't covered by your health insurance will depend on your medical history and the policy options you have chosen. Broadly speaking, though, you can expect any policy to cover the treatment costs relating to acute conditions where an overnight stay in hospital is required. Chronic conditions (those which cannot be cured) aren't usually covered, and outpatient treatment (those which don't need an overnight stay) will only be included in more comprehensive policies.

What will be excluded from my policy?

While each policy and its owner will differ, and so will the associated exclusions, there are several things which we would expect most policies to exclude by default:

  • GP visits (although some providers now do offer virtual GP services)
  • A&E treatment - private health insurance isn't an emergency service
  • Injuries related to some high-risk sports or activities
  • Organ transplants
  • Routine pregnancy
  • HIV & Aids
  • Chronic conditions

While these may not be covered as part of your self-employed health insurance, you will still be able to use the NHS for these treatments.

What about pre-existing medical conditions?

If you're living with a pre-existing medical condition, you should take extra care when configuring your policy to ensure your cover isn't too negatively affected. That said, it is still possible to get a policy with pre-existing conditions - you'll likely just have some exclusions.

There are two types of underwriting methods for self-employed health insurance policies, moratorium and full medical history. Moratorium underwriting is the most popular method in the UK, with almost 95% of policies written using this method. In simple terms, with moratorium underwriting, the insurer doesn't perform any upfront medical history checks; they defer them until you make a claim. When they check your history, they will automatically exclude any medical conditions you've had symptoms or treatment for in the past five years. The good thing about moratorium underwriting is that if you haven't had any symptoms for two years since you took out your policy, those conditions will be covered by the policy. The only disadvantage of moratorium underwriting is that you don't have a clear picture of what is and isn't covered by your health insurance policy.

With full medical history underwriting, as the name suggests, the insurer will evaluate your complete medical history before you take out a policy. This method does mean that you have more clarity about what is and isn't covered, but as you might expect, it's time-consuming. Part of the service our expert health insurance brokers provide is helping you choose the best type of underwriting for you, so if you're left scratching your head at this point, don't worry - our experts will be on hand to help.

What types of health insurance are available for the self-employed?

  • Basic - a basic policy will cover you for only inpatient treatment and the cost of your stay in hospital.
  • Medium - in addition to the above, you'll also be eligible for outpatient treatments.
  • Comprehensive - inpatient and outpatient treatment and diagnosis, plus cover for treatments such as physiotherapy and mental health support.

All of the best providers of self-employed health insurance will allow you to tailor your plan to suit your needs. You can even remove specific parts of a policy that don't fit your lifestyle, reducing the cost and personalising your cover.

Health cash plans

There is one more option that you could consider, which is a health cash plan. These policies cover routine appointments with your dentist, opticians or physio - not unexpected treatments, which your main policy will cover.

Choosing the right self-employed health insurance plan for you

There are many factors to consider when you configure your health insurance plan, from the level of cover you require to things like the method of underwriting and your hospital list. Unlike other more simple forms of insurance where you can easily compare and buy a policy online, health insurance is a more complicated product, which you should seek expert advice. A health insurance broker doesn't charge for their services and will help you configure your policy to your requirements and make sure you're fully informed about the choices you make. Best of all, being that brokers are independent of the insurers, you'll get objective advice and a birdseye view of the market and prices.

How much is health insurance if you're self-employed?

The cost of your self-employed health insurance will vary significantly based upon several variables. Some of these will be within your control, while others will be outside of it. Here are just some of the factors affecting the cost of your policy:

  • Level of cover - basic, medium or comprehensive
  • Your location - treatment in major cities cost more
  • Your age, medical history and smoking status
  • Any additional extras you add to the policy
  • Whether you have an excess on the policy

Self-employed health insurance quote

If you are between the ages of 30 and 40, are in good health, a non-smoker and live outside of London, you can expect to pay anywhere from £60-£90 per month for a comprehensive policy.

These prices are merely indicative, and the cost of your health insurance will be different.

Reducing the cost of your self-employed health insurance

There are many ways you can lower the cost of your private health insurance before considering reducing your level of cover.

Add an excess

Adding an excess is the most popular way to make a policy more affordable without sacrificing the level of cover you have on the policy. A word of caution with excesses, though, always try to keep them relatively low and affordable, as no one appreciates a giant bill when they are unwell.

Reduce your hospital list

Most policies will include a hospital list that has locations where you could receive treatment nationwide. By limiting your hospitals to those most local to you and avoiding those in expensive places such as central London, you can reduce the cost of your policy without losing out on cover.

Add a 6-week wait

Our least favoured option would be to add a 6-week wait to the policy. This means you agree that if the waiting time is six weeks or less on the NHS, you will be treated on the NHS, not privately. In our opinion, this compromises some of the benefits of private medical insurance, and therefore we wouldn't usually recommend it.

The UK's best providers of self-employed health insurance

Hopefully, by this point, you have an excellent understanding of self-employed health insurance in the UK, so let's now return to our list of the best providers and their policies and analyse each of them. For the sake of this article and simplicity, we're focusing here on the best providers and policies for the self-employed; there are, of course, lesser options available that will reduce your policy cost and level of cover. To discuss your specific requirements, please request a quote, and we'll arrange for an expert in health insurance to contact you.

Bupa - Bupa By You Comprehensive

Bupa is perhaps the best-known private healthcare provider in the UK; indeed, they're synonymous with it. Their best policy for self-employed individuals is called "Bupa By You Comprehensive" and will give you an excellent level of cover. You can expect all of the following to be included and more:

  • Pre-treatment outpatient consultations
  • Pre-treatment outpatient diagnostic tests
  • Pre-treatment MRI, CT and PET scans
  • Hospital treatment
  • Mental health cover
  • Outpatient therapies
  • Post-treatment diagnostic tests
  • Post-treatment scans
  • A choice over your level of cancer cover
  • Private ambulance
  • NHS cash benefit
  • And more

As you can see, what is included is extensive, albeit comparable to the others providers on this list. Bupa By You Comprehensive scored a 5* Defaqto rating in 2021, and with nearly 10,000 reviews on Trustpilot with an average score of 4.3/5, it's fair to say you'd be in safe hands with them.

Aviva Healthier Solutions

As with all of the providers on this list, Aviva is a household name and the largest insurer in the UK. Their best policy for self-employed people is their "Healthier Solutions" comprehensive plan, and you can expect all of the following to be included:

  • Inpatient and day-patient hospital treatment
  • Outpatient consultations
  • Outpatient diagnostic tests and treatment
  • Outpatient mental health treatment
  • Cancer treatment and aftercare
  • Physiotherapy, osteopathy and chiropractic treatment
  • NHS cash benefit
  • Baby bonus
  • And more

Aviva Healthier Solutions is a flexible policy that can be customised to your exact requirements. It's got a 5* Defaqto rating, and Aviva as a whole has an impressive Trustpilot score of 4.6/ 5 from over 7,000 reviews. 

Axa PPP Personal Health

Axa PPP is another well-known insurer that excels when it comes to health insurance for the self-employed. Their comprehensive policy "Personal Health" is excellent and provides you with all of the following:

  • Outpatient diagnostic tests and treatment
  • Outpatient mental health treatment
  • Inpatient and day-patient hospital treatment
  • Outpatient consultations
  • Cancer treatment and aftercare
  • Physiotherapy, osteopathy and chiropractic treatment
  • NHS cash benefit
  • Baby bonus
  • And more

Axa PPP has amassed over 7,000 reviews on Feefo with an excellent score of 4.7/5; not only that but their Personal Health Comprehensive policy scores a solid 5-star Defaqto rating.

Vitality Personal Healthcare

With arguably the most distinctive brand of any of the providers, we're sure that Vitality and their cute sausage dog have caught your attention at some point in recent times. They're a relatively new player in the market, having taken over PruHealth in 2004. Despite this, they've brought a new way of thinking to the market, with many commentators applauding their innovative policies, which reward members for living healthily. Here are just some of the things you can expect from your Vitality Personal Healthcare policy:

  • Treatment of acute medical conditions
  • Private hospital stays
  • In and outpatient diagnostic tests
  • Cancer treatment and aftercare
  • Oral surgery 
  • Weight loss surgery
  • Corrective surgeries
  • Discounts and rewards for healthy living
  • Mental health support
  • Menopause support
  • And more

Vitality stands out with its reviews, having a whopping 22,617 on Trustpilot with an average score of 4.3/5. That's extremely impressive given the sheer quantity of reviews they've had. Not only that but their comprehensive policy, Personal Healthcare, has a Defaqto rating of 5 stars. Clearly, they are a serious contender when it comes to health insurance for the self-employed.

The Exeter Health+

Last but not least, The Exeter round off our top-five providers of self-employed health insurance in the UK. Perhaps not as well known as some of the others on this list, The Exeter are still a significant player in the market and have an excellent product in their Health+ offering. Here's what you can expect to be included in this comprehensive policy:

  • Unlimited inpatient and day-patient treatment
  • Complete cancer care
  • Outpatient surgery
  • Private ambulance service
  • Home nursing
  • Parental accommodation
  • Post-op physio
  • NHS cash benefit 
  • And more

The Exeter has only recently started collecting Trustpilot reviews which explains its current score of 4.5/5 from only 476 reviews. We're sure that in time they will gather more excellent thoughts and expand on this number. Importantly, their Health+ product received a 5-star score from Defaqto in 2021, signalling that this is the highest quality policy.

Getting help to choose a policy

By this point, it may be a case of information overload, but don't worry, our experts are on standby to help you choose the right policy for you. With so many options to consider, not to mention providers and their policies, configuring self-employed health insurance can be a daunting task. Fortunately, we can connect you with an expert in the field who will be on hand to walk you through the whole process from start to finish. You'll get the right policy at the best price, and importantly you'll have peace of mind that this vital insurance is configured correctly and will be helpful should you need to claim. As a reminder, the service provided by brokers is free of charge, so there isn't any disadvantage in working with one.

FAQs about self-employed health insurance

How can you get health insurance if you're self-employed?

The best way to get a health insurance policy if you're self-employed is to speak to a broker who will be able to advise you on the best product for your needs.

Why should I consider health insurance if I'm self-employed?

Self-employed people are at a higher than usual risk of loss of income when they are unwell. Private health insurance will help you get better faster if you are taken ill, amongst other significant benefits.

Can I expense health insurance if I'm self-employed?

This depends on how you're set up as a self-employed person. If you are a sole trader, not a director of a limited company, it is unlikely you will be able to write off your health insurance as a business expense. This is because there needs to be a registered company through which any premiums are paid. If you're self-employed, you can undoubtedly get health insurance, but it would need to be paid personally rather than through the business. 

Can I add my family to my policy?

Yes, you can usually add your family to your health insurance policy. When you speak to us about your policy, mention you'd like your quotes to include your family, and we'll do the rest.