How does private health insurance work?

Private health insurance can pay out for a range of treatments for illnesses and injuries. Here is how it works and what types you can get.

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Last updated: 15 September 2020

Pros and cons



      How does private health insurance work?

      Also known as... Private medical insurance (PMI)

      It pays for private medical treatment, tests and surgery if you are ill or injured during the policy's term. It is usually designed for acute conditions, which are curable and short term.

      You usually pay a monthly amount for your health insurance, which is called the premium. Your insurance can pay out if you need treatment that it covers while the policy is active.

      It is designed to offer treatment alongside the service provided by the NHS. For example, appointments with your GP would still be through the NHS. But with medical insurance you could get:

        Find health insurance policies here

        What does it cover?

        Health insurance can include cover for treatment you get as:

          Comprehensive health insurance is usually more expensive but covers more types of treatment. Cheaper policies come with lower monthly premiums but pay out for less.

          Some health insurers let you pick exactly what is covered from a range of options like:

            What is not covered?

            Each policy has different limits and exclusions, but most do not cover:

              Many policies do not cover medical conditions you have already, for example if you have diabetes. But some policies include some cover for pre-existing conditions.

              How to claim on your health insurance

              Cover limits

              Like other types of insurance, the policies come with limits on how much you can claim. These can include annual limits on:

                Some policies also only pay for private treatment if you have to wait six months or more for the treatment you need on the NHS.

                What types are available

                You could get a policy designed for:

                  Comprehensive medical insurance covers the widest range of treatment, but there are also more specific policies to cover:

                    You could also choose a policy for your age range if you are:

                      How to choose a health insurance policy

                      How much it costs

                      The cost of your health insurance policy depends on:

                        These factors can also affect if you can get some policies. For example, some insurers do not offer cover for pre-existing conditions.

                        How to lower the cost

                          Compare health insurance policies here