The private medical insurance market in the UK is a regulated industry and only companies authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) can sell health insurance policies.
Purchasing private health insurance is usually a very straightforward process but you want to make sure that you’re paying for a health insurance policy that suits you and your individual needs. In this article we’ll highlight where you can purchase private medical insurance, the steps involved in getting a health insurance policy and what information you’ll need to give to your chosen provider when you apply.
Where can I buy health insurance?
You can buy private health insurance directly from a health insurance provider or through an intermediary such as:
No matter which route you use, there are generally three steps involved in buying private health insurance.
Step 1: Get health insurance quotes
The hardest part in buying health insurance is to decide which policy to buy. There are many private medical insurance options available on the market and shopping around can be time consuming. At the same time, if you settle for the first quote you get, you risk buying a health insurance policy that is not right for you.
The Association of British Insurers recommends getting quotes from different insurers to compare their health benefits and their cover limits while considering your own health needs. You can do this by:
- Getting quotes directly from the insurance providers
- Using a comparison website
- Getting in touch with an insurance broker
If you are already familiar with health insurance, or perhaps you are interested in a specific company based on personal recommendations, going directly to the insurer may be the preferred option for you. Going on a comparison website is fast and can help you compare policies in just a few seconds, however, if you think you require independent health insurance advice, a broker can help you compare and choose your policy at the same time.
What information do I need to give when requesting a health insurance quote?
You might be wondering, ‘what do I need to get health insurance?’. Getting a health insurance quote is usually a quick and simple process and similar across all insurers. Below is the information you are usually asked for:
This is what is typically required when you are requesting a quote but should you decide to go ahead with purchasing a private health insurance policy, you’ll need to provide further details (we’ll talk about what these include later).
Step 2: Compare quotes and choose your health insurance policy
After getting different health insurance quotes, you can compare them and check which one is more suitable for you, taking into consideration both the cost and the cover options to decide what’s right for you.
The right health cover for your needs
The cover provided by private health insurance policies can range from cover which is limited to inpatient treatment only with no cover for outpatient treatment through to the most comprehensive which includes inpatient and outpatient treatment along with benefits for mental health care, cancer cover and alternative therapies. This increasing range of cover will naturally be reflected in its premium. Getting the right balance between cover and price is usually the most difficult decision to make when buying private medical insurance and, a ‘one size fits all’ approach doesn’t work here. That’s why it’s important to compare quotes and find the one that works for you and your personal circumstances.
How much does health insurance cost?
By shopping around, and by being flexible about your level of cover, you should be able to find health insurance options for most budgets. However, it’s not just the cover you choose that will impact your private health insurance premium. This can also depend on:
So, there are a range of factors that can affect the cost of UK private health insurance.
Find out more about the cost of private health insurance.
It can be tricky to compare like-for-like health insurance products based on price and cover alone, as each company can have different criteria for setting premiums and there are many variables to consider when it comes to cover. Prioritising the health benefits that matter to you can make it easier to decide.
Step 3: Purchase your health insurance cover
After you have compared quotes and have chosen the most suitable one for you, you can then apply for private medical insurance. You can usually do this online, over the phone or even face to face.
What information do I need to give when applying for health insurance?
When applying for a policy, health insurance companies need a few more details from you apart from the information you have already given when you requested a quote. You usually need to provide answers to questions regarding the following:
- Your occupation (some jobs may come with certain exclusions)
- Your full address
- Your cover start date (this can typically be up to 28-30 days in the future and you can’t backdate your cover)
- Your payment details
Do I need to give details about my health?
Whether you need to provide information about your health when you purchase a new private medical insurance plan will depend on the method of underwriting applied to your policy. This will determine what pre-existing medical conditions will be excluded from your cover and for how long. The most common types of underwriting are moratorium underwriting and full medical underwriting. Read more about medical underwriting.
What happens after you buy private health insurance?
Once your new health insurance plan starts, you can access the private healthcare system for eligible claims. You still have the right to access free health services offered by the NHS should you wish to, but you will now have more choice in the medical support, hospitals and treatments you access.
After your purchase, it is a good idea to read all documents received from your health insurance company to fully understand your policy, your exclusions and the claims process. You usually have at least 14 days after the purchase date during which you can cancel your health insurance policy and receive a full refund if you change your mind.
Whenever you buy health insurance, you need to remember that each person has their own health needs and finding the right balance between the level of cover you need and the premium you are willing to pay is essential. That’s why it’s important to do your own research and to seek advice from an expert insurance broker if required.
We hope we’ve answered all of your questions relating to how to purchase private health insurance but if you have any further questions, please feel free to get in touch and a member of our friendly team will be happy to help.
Are you interested in a health insurance plan? Get a free online health insurance quote from Freedom Health Insurance.
Want to know more about health insurance? Read about how health insurance works.
Are you looking to purchase health insurance for your business? Get more information about business health insurance.
Disclaimer: The information contained on this page is for general information purposes only and should not be taken as advice or a recommendation. If you require specific health insurance advice you can talk to an independent insurance broker. Click here for a list of health insurance brokers available in your area.