Thanks to the accessible, free treatment provided by the NHS in the UK, many individuals never have the need to take out private health insurance. It is believed that less than 7% of the UK population have taken out their own health insurance, excluding any that enjoy cover as part of a benefits package from an employer.

Despite negative press coverage at times, the NHS is generally regarded as an exceptional resource. However, by understanding the benefits of having a private health-insurance policy, individuals can begin to shop around.

Private Health Insurance: The Benefits

The biggest benefits associated with health insurance are usually the reduced waiting times and costs. In some regions, waiting times can be dramatically shorter. This is due to the demands on the NHS in different parts of the UK as well as how funding limitations can affect accessibility. Reduced costs are another positive; anyone can access private healthcare provided they can pay for it, and having a health-insurance policy will cover most outgoings.

Other benefits that are often mentioned are better standards of medical care in some cases, having a greater choice of places to go for treatments, and the range of treatment options available.

If the benefits of having private health insurance appeal, what is the best way to shop around?

Getting Started with Health Insurance

The easiest way to compare health insurance providers and policies, is to consider the type of cover needed. Individuals should also be aware that a number of factors, including but not limited to age, lifestyle, personal pre-existing conditions and family medical history, can influence the types of health-insurance policy available, as well as the cost.

Cheap health insurance is often available from £10-£15 per month, although this level of cover is often very basic and may only include inpatient care and offer limited choices of treatment and care providers. While a low cost is often appealing, the cheapest cover won’t necessarily be the best cover.

Individuals can take out diagnostics cover, for example, or tailor their policy to cover more of the cost of treatment and medication.

Shopping Around

It usually isn't worth using a price-comparison site when choosing private health insurance. All that tends to happen is people enter a few personal details and then get a call back; unlike with car insurance, where someone can go through everything and take out a policy on the spot.

Most people start with one of the so-called “big four” providers; Bupa, Axa, Aviva and PruHealth; it is definitely worth shopping around, as many smaller providers offer competitive policies and benefits.

Health Insurance Success

As well as understanding the type of cover needed, anyone considering taking out health insurance ought to consider how often he or she is likely to need to access medical care, as this can also affect the price of a premium. Insurers allow for an increased likelihood of needing medical care as a person gets older, although having private health insurance from a young age can prevent costs escalating hugely in later life.

It is also worth identifying those insurers that will issue a policy even if pre-existing medical conditions do exist, and anyone shopping for insurance should be fully aware of anything that may invalidate a policy or reasons why an insurer may not pay out against a claim.

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