Why an experienced health insurance broker is worth their weight in gold

Chris Steele
Founder and Editor
Chris is our resident private health insurance and healthcare expert. He has over a decade of experience writing about private medical insurance and treatment. He's Chartered Insurance Institute qualified and is regularly quoted by the national press.
Chris Steele
Reviewed by
Reviewed by
Updated on
May 8, 2024

Health insurance should enable you to access the medical care you need when you need it most. That said, it can be a tricky area to navigate, especially if you’ve never taken out health cover before, but that’s where an experienced health insurance broker can help; here’s how.

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One minute read

With health insurance being so complicated, in many cases, it'll take years for a broker to understand the ins and outs so they can provide top-notch advice.

While there's nothing wrong with advisers who are new to the industry, they likely haven't seen the pitfalls first-hand, so if you can find an experienced broker, one that's been in the business for over three years, hold on to them, as they are worth their weight in gold.

What is an insurance broker?

Insurance brokers act as a liaison between you and insurance companies. Their role is to help you find the best insurance according to your needs and your budget. Brokers will usually manage the claims process on your behalf as well, streamlining the whole process for you.

Brokers cover a wide range of products, but they can be particularly helpful if you’re looking for a more specialist type of policy, such as business insurance, life or health insurance.

A broker can also help you if you’re struggling to find affordable insurance because of your risk profile, for example, if you want private medical cover but have a history of poor health.

If your insurance needs are relatively simple, you won’t necessarily need an insurance broker, but the benefits of using one include:

  • Expertise – brokers have specialist knowledge which can be particularly beneficial if you’re looking for a niche product or aren’t sure about what you should be looking for in a policy.
  • Impartiality – independent brokers are impartialso any advice you’re given should be based on your needs rather than financialincentives.
  • Time-saving – a broker does the searchingfor you, bringing you the most suitable policies to choose from.
  • Risk analysis – experienced brokers will be able to identify and assess risks that you might not otherwise have considered, helping you to keep your losses as low as possible.

Is it worth getting health insurance through a broker?

Health insurance can feel overly complex. This is often because of unfamiliar terminology, and the fact that there’s no real standardisation within the sector as health insurers all work to their own conditions.

A broker with experience in the health insurance market will be able to take you through all the available options and (more importantly), explain what it all means in plain English. In an area like health insurance, this expertise can prove invaluable, as they’ll be able to discuss specific terms and conditions, along with any limitations to the policy so that you fully understand what’s covered.

How are health insurance brokers paid?

One key area to be clear on is payment terms. Most brokers work on a commission basis, so if you buy a policy, the health insurer will pay the broker. Brokers can work for a fixed fee or a percentage of the policy price.

Usually, seeing a broker won’t cost you anything but some do charge a small consultation fee (which may be refunded if you buy a policy). If there is a fee to be paid, they should tell you this upfront and clearly show what the fee is.

Agents versus brokers – be clear about who you’re speaking to

Insurance brokers are independent advisors who offer impartial advice. They’ll be able to show you policies from different health insurers and discuss the merits or drawbacks of each one objectively.

Crucially, because brokers are not affiliated or tied to one particular provider, they’re not incentivised to sell you a particular policy or steer you towards a certain healthcare insurer.

Agents, on the other hand, work for one insurance provider and they will only be able to offer advice related to the provider they work for. Agents may also be incentivised through commission, so it’s in their interest to sell you a policy (even if it doesn’t quite fit your needs).  

The difference between the two is an important distinction, so before you discuss anything, be clear whether the person you’re speaking to is an agent or a broker.

Are insurance brokers for new policies only?

You can use an insurance broker at any point. Whether that’s to find a new policy, to renew one, or to discuss your options if you want to switch provider.

Illustration of two people having a conversation showcasing the 7 benefits of working with a health insurance broker. The text reads: "7 benefits of working with a health insurance broker: 1. Saves you time; 2. Brokers are unbiased; 3. Help with jargon and complexity; 4. Support with renewals; 5. Likely saves money; 6. Knowledge of the health insurance market; 7. Support when you make a claim.

Is it more expensive to buy insurance through a broker?

Using a broker should not make any difference to your premium. In other words, your premium won’t be increased in order to cover the broker’s fee.

Part of a broker’s job is to ensure you get the right policy at the best price. This doesn’t always mean you’ll get the cheapest policy on the market, but it should mean you get value for money and a policy that reflects your own healthcare needs.

Brokers typically have access to a wider range of policies compared to what you might find on a comparison site. Often, the policies they have access to are also more competitively priced.

Does it matter how experienced the broker is?

As with all careers, experience goes a long way. In terms of health insurance, an experienced broker is more likely to have an extensive knowledge of the market and of all the products available in comparison to someone who’s just started.

Experience can also mean brokers are more aware of potential pitfalls, particularly surrounding pre-existing conditions and the claims process, as well as the policy itself. As well as their expert technical knowledge, an experienced broker may also encourage you to see the bigger picture, for example, if having children is on the horizon, they may steer you towards a policy with more child or family-friendly terms.  

It’s also important not to underestimate how important experience can be in finding suitable cover if your needs are very specific, or you’re concerned about your own long-term health.

This isn’t to say that insurance brokers new to the industry can’t give you the same advice. It is simply that their knowledge may not be as in-depth or broad.

Plus, don’t forget that brokers can also help with the claims process itself. Someone experienced, or with a team behind them will have had more practice in processing claims efficiently.  

What should I expect from an insurance broker?

Insurance brokers all work slightly differently but the main steps include:

Initial consultation

In your initial conversation, a broker will discuss your needs, this could mean they ask you personal questions but it’s important for them to work out what’s important to you and why. This could mean they ask you:

  • About any pre-existing conditions you have or any treatment you’ve already had.
  • Why you’re interested in health insurance now.
  • How much you want to spend.
  • Any concerns you might have about how your family’s medical history might affect your policy.
  • Whether you want an individual policy, joint or family policy.

Based on your discussion, your broker will then look for suitable policies.

Discussion of policies

After their search, your broker will discuss the healthcare plans they’ve found that they think are suitable. They’ll go through why they’ve been chosen, including the pros and cons of each, and highlight anything of particular importance.

Your broker should be able to explain key terms in a way that is clear. For example, explaining how your policy is underwritten and how that affects the claims process. They should also be able to take you through your payment options as some insurers offer various ways to manage your premium –such as co-payment options, excess and no-claims discounts (all of which we cover in our guide to demystifying health insurance).

You should always feel able to ask questions (most brokers will actively encourage you to do so) and raise any concerns.

Choosing a plan

If you decide to go ahead and buy a private health insurance policy, your broker can arrange this for you. Normally, you’ll pay the insurer directly rather than the broker.

Most brokers will carry on supporting you for as long as the policy is active. This often means they will manage all your claims on your behalf and be able to answer any queries that crop up.

Where can I find an experienced insurance broker?

Brokers must be listed on the Financial Services Register. The register is overseen by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and helps ensure that anyone providing a regulated service (such as financial advice) is operating fairly and honestly and acting in the interests of the consumer.

Using a regulated broker also means you’re protected through the Financial Ombudsman Service and the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. This ensures that if you have a complaint or lose money through the arrangement, you can find a resolution or seek compensation.

You can check the financial services register for free at the Financial Conduct Authority. You should also make sure the broker is authorised to provide the specific service they’re offering. The register clearly lists the activities each firm or individual can carry out, for example, insurance, investment advice, consumer credit.

You can also find a regulated insurance broker using the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA) search facility. BIBA is an insurance trade association so unlike the Financial Services Register, firms and individuals do not have to join (so don’t panic if the broker you use isn’t a BIBA member).

The Association of MedicalInsurers and Intermediaries (AMII) is another trade association but it’s specifically for anyone offering advice about health insurance. Again, brokers don’t have to be a member of AMII but if they are, it means they’ve made a promise to work to a code of conduct.

If you’ve found a suitable broker, it’s also worth taking a look at any reviews you can find. If you can, use independent sites rather than the broker’s own website (if they have one). Recommendations are also a good way to find a broker so if you know anyone with private health insurance, ask them if they can recommend someone.

Understanding your health insurance options

If you want to feel prepared before consulting a broker for the first time, you can find out more about health insurance in our series of in-depth guides, including how to get private healthcare, the average cost and how premiums work.

You can also search for a policy using our comparison tool which can give you a good idea of what’s available before you speak to an expert. Alternatively, you can simply contact us and we’ll put you in touch with a regulated broker so you can talk to them about your needs.

Disclaimer: This information is general and what is best for you will depend on your personal circumstances. Please speak with a financial adviser or do your own research before making a decision.

This article was written by:
Chris Steele
Founder and Editor

Chris is our resident private health insurance and healthcare expert. He has over a decade of experience writing about private medical insurance and treatment. He's Chartered Insurance Institute qualified and is regularly quoted by the national press.

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