When should I get health insurance?

There isn't a prescribed time in your life when you "should" get health insurance. It comes down to your circumstances and needs. It may be that you've seen a friend struggle to get mental health support via the NHS, or even a family member stuck on a waiting list for a routine operation that spurs you on. Whatever the reason, the good news is that health insurance costs are linked very closely to your age, so taking out a policy as a young, working professional will invariably be cheaper than if you took one out when you're older. On that note, we should point out that health insurance policies are typically 12-months in length, and each year, your insurer will review your policy and provide you with a quote for another year. As you age, the cost of your policy will increase, but this can often be offset by comparing all of the leading providers and switching to a comparable policy. 

How old do I have to be to get health insurance?

To take out a health insurance policy, you need to be 18 or older; however, if you are added to someone else's policy, such as a parent, you can get cover at a younger age.

Benefits of health insurance to young people

Many of the benefits of health insurance apply regardless of your age, but some are perhaps more likely to be valued by the young. You can expect the following benefits:

  • Fast treatment at many of the UK's private hospitals
  • More choice over who, where and when you are treated
  • Access to drugs and treatments not routinely available on the NHS
  • Various discounts from gym membership through to tech
  • Enhanced mental health support
  • A private room while you're in a hospital
  • Access to virtual GP services to be seen faster
  • Faster diagnosis and pre-treatment testing (comprehensive policies only)
Health insurance for young adults

Benefits to help you look after yourself

Along with access to first-class medical treatment, many health insurance providers will give you several discounts aimed at helping you stay in the best shape both physically and mentally. For young adults that like to keep in shape, these additional benefits can sometimes add up to more than the cost of the policy. Here are some examples of the types of things providers will offer on top of their core cover:

  • Half price gym membership
  • Discounts for spas
  • Free tech like the Apple Watch or a Fitbit
  • Amazon Prime membership
  • Help to quit smoking
  • Discounts at leading coffee shops
  • Discounted hotels and holidays
  • And much more
When speaking to your health insurance adviser, be sure to discuss your lifestyle so they can help you choose the best provider.

What's covered by private medical insurance?

Each health insurance policy will differ in what is and isn't covered; however, you can usually expect all of the following to be included:

  • Treatment for acute conditions (those which can be cured)
  • Inpatient treatment (where you require a bed overnight)
  • Day patient treatment (where you need a bed just for a day)
  • Cancer cover (usually a core part of the provider's offering)
  • Treatment aftercare and follow up consultations
  • Pre-treatment diagnosis, tests and scans (comprehensive policies only)
  • Mental health support (included in some policies but enhanced cover often an additional option)
  • Physiotherapy

Optional extras for consideration

Alongside the core inclusions of your policy, there are several additional options that young adults should consider. All of these will add to the cost of the policy, but you'll get some significant benefits in return. Once again, to re-iterate, young adults will typically get the best prices available, so you can usually get a very comprehensive policy with several additional options for a reasonable price. 

Mental health cover

As cited in this research in 2018, Young adults in the UK between the ages of 18 - 34 are more likely than any other age group to report problems with their mental health, with NHS England stating that 75% of mental health disorders are established by the age of 24. That's a start reminder of how vulnerable people are during their early adult years. Unfortunately, despite improvements in recent years, the provision for NHS mental health support still isn't where it needs to be. 

Some private health insurance policies will include a level of mental health support in their core product, but most will offer it as an optional extra. Of course, it is up to you whether you'd like to include it, but it's one part of a policy we think can be invaluable and provide you with the additional support you need during difficult times. 

Routine dental and optical treatments

As cited in this NHS report, nearly 50% of UK adults haven't seen a dentist within the past 24 months, which we're sure you'll agree is a vast number. Private medical insurance does cover several treatments relating to your dental and optical health, but they are all significant conditions rather than routine appointments. Insurers do, however, offer the ability to cover the cost of regular appointments too, so if this is of interest, just let us know when you speak to your adviser.

Therapies

While some policies cover physiotherapy as standard, other therapies such as chiropractors or osteopath visits tend to be extras. Again, like the other optional extras mentioned in this article, speak to your adviser to work out whether you'd benefit. 

Travel cover

The final notable additional extra to consider when taking out your policy is whether you would like it to cover you for international travel too. Obviously, in recent times we've all been limited in terms of where we can travel too, but as the world opens back up, this will likely become an option that's worth considering again.

What your policy won't cover

It's important to understand that while health insurance and especially comprehensive policies will cover a lot, they don't cover everything. What is excluded from your policy will vary between providers but broadly speaking, the following won't be covered:

  • Pre-existing conditions
  • Cosmetic surgery
  • Routine pregnancy
  • Emergency services
  • Chronic conditions
  • Conditions relating to alcohol or substance abuse

As we say, this is a fairly broad list, and what is excluded from your policy will vary between providers.

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How are pre-existing conditions treated?

Most private medical insurance policies are underwritten on a moratorium basis where pre-existing conditions you've suffered from in the past five years will be excluded. However, if you take out a policy and don't have any symptoms or require any treatment of the said condition for two years, it will become covered. So effectively, while the last five years or conditions will be excluded, they'll become covered as long as you go symptom-free for a couple of years. If you're unsure about what this means for you, please speak to one of our advisers, who will be able to answer your questions in more depth. 

How can you get health insurance?

There are several ways you can get health insurance, but similarly to other financial services policies, it pays to compare the providers to make sure you get the best deal. Health insurance is relatively unique in that there are many ways your policy can be configured and lots of options to choose from. We therefore always recommend speaking to a health insurance broker who will not only be able to get you the best price for your policy but will also ensure that it's set up correctly, according to your personal preferences.

Health insurance brokers don't charge you anything; you get the same price as going direct to an insurer but with the benefit of independent pre-sales advice.

Here are some of the most common ways of young people getting a health insurance policy:

  • Via a specialist health insurance broker
  • By going direct to an insurer
  • Via your employer, if they have a company scheme in place
  • From a bank or building society

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Best providers of health insurance for young adults

The leading providers of health insurance for young adults are the same as those for older individuals and families. Still, you will find that certain ones will offer additional benefits or perks that might be of more value to you. If you would like our full round-up of the best health insurance providers, click the link to read another of our guides. 

The leading providers of health insurance in the UK are:

  • Bupa
  • Vitality
  • Axa PPP
  • Health-on-line
  • Aviva
  • WPA
  • Freedom
  • CS Healthcare

How much does health insurance cost for young adults?

With many variables, including your age, location, level of cover, optional extras and more, it's impossible to give you a straight answer to that question. Therefore, we'd always recommend requesting a comparison quote to get a personalised example. All that said, we know you will likely want example pricing, so we've gone out to the leading providers based on some set criteria to give you some estimates. 

The prices provided below are meant as a guide only, and the price you will pay for your policy will be different. 

For our little pricing experiment, we've set the following rules:

The only variable is the person's age

The person lives in Southampton

They would like a comprehensive policy with no extras

They are happy for a £100 excess to be applied to the policy

The policy will be underwritten on a moratorium basis

In all cases, we'll select the cheapest policy available

  • Cost of health insurance for an 18-year-old = £25.85 per month
  • Cost of health insurance for a 19-year-old = £26.30 per month
  • Cost of health insurance for a 20-year-old = £27.90 per month
  • Cost of health insurance for a 21-year-old = £28.14 per month
  • Cost of health insurance for a 22-year-old = £29.37 per month
  • Cost of health insurance for a 23-year-old = £30.12 per month
  • Cost of health insurance for a 24-year-old = £31.00 per month
  • Cost of health insurance for a 25-year-old = £33.98 per month
  • Cost of health insurance for a 26-year-old = £34.75 per month
  • Cost of health insurance for a 27-year-old = £35.69 per month
  • Cost of health insurance for a 28-year-old = £37.99 per month
  • Cost of health insurance for a 29-year-old = £38.85 per month
  • Cost of health insurance for a 30-year-old = £40.96 per month

Disclaimer: All prices are merely examples; the price you pay for your policy will be different.

Frequently asked questions

How old do I need to be to take out a health insurance policy?

You need to be 18-years of age or older to be the primary applicant for a health insurance policy in the UK. You can, however, still get health insurance if you're younger; it's just that you need to be added to someone else's policy. 

Can a 19-year-old get health insurance?

Yes, as long as you are above 18 years of age, you can get health insurance in the UK.

How much is health insurance for a single person?

The price of health insurance varies depending on your age, among other factors, and therefore, it's impossible to provide you with a precise answer to this question. 

Should you get health insurance in your 20s?

There's no reason you have to get health insurance in your 20s; however, with it being relatively inexpensive, many people choose to.