Why are these the best health insurers in 2021?
To be included on our list of the best health insurance the provider must offer a policy that includes full cover for these core features:
- Hospital fees, including drugs and surgery
- Consultant fees, such as anaesthetist fees
- Diagnostic tests
- Cancer cover
We believe these are features most people are looking for when they consider health insurance and they’re likely to be among the most common things people claim for.
We made our selection based on the most extensive base cover policy each insurer had available (excluding optional extras). Not all policies offered by the providers in our list will include full cover for these features as standard and they may label them differently, so be sure to check carefully when you’re comparing plans.
You can get free regulated advice about health insurance cover features from ActiveQuote. Because they’re regulated they can suggest the policies that will best suit your circumstances. Visit their site to compare policies and get advice on health insurance.
Because there are not as many health insurers as car or home insurance brands, our list includes most of the health insurance providers in the UK.
If you’re trying to decide which policy is best for you, it’s worth considering which features are most relevant to your needs and paying attention to any additional benefits the provider might offer. For example, someone under 30 might feel they have less need for extensive cancer cover but might be more interested in physiotherapy benefits.
We based our list of the best health insurers on companies that offer substantial cover for the most commonly required procedures, including surgery and cancer treatment. However, there may be specific benefits or features people consider when looking for health insurance some providers offer that make them more relevant to you. These include:
- Available hospitals — Many of the insurers in our list offer access to a nationwide network of private medical facilities. If you live closer to a hospital associated with a particular provider it may influence your decisions.
- Virtual GP access — Having access to a GP via an app is becoming increasingly popular. It can allow you to book an appointment at a convenient time from your home and the GP may be able to prescribe treatments through the app. Talking to your GP over the phone via an app is an increasingly popular way of being seen. Providers like Aviva, Vitality Health, WPA and The Exeter offer apps for virtual GP appointments so you don’t need to leave your home for a diagnosis.
- Mental health cover — Getting treatment for mental illness is just as important as medicine for physical injuries. Many insurers will cover the costs of therapy for things like addiction and depression. AXA cover provides unlimited cover for mental health treatment on its comprehensive plan. Bupa offers mental health cover that extends to the rest of your family as well, including children.
In this guide
- What is health insurance?
- How to choose the best health insurance
- The different types of health insurance in the UK
- How much does health insurance cost in the UK?
- Private Health Insurance and pre-existing conditions
- Can I get Dental Health Insurance?
- Can I get Expat Health Insurance or International Health Insurance?
- Health insurance during pregnancy
- Does health insurance cover cosmetic surgery?
- Does health insurance cover complementary therapies?
- Is 'unlimited' cover really unlimited?
- Who are the biggest health insurance companies in the UK?
- Health Insurance Reviews
- All Health Insurance Reviews
What is health insurance?
Health insurance can be one of the most important insurance purchases an individual or family will make.
While the NHS provides free treatment, it can have substantial waiting times and is limited by the types of treatments available. Health insurance allows you to get access to private hospitals and medical facilities for prompt, high-quality care..
With health insurance, you pay a monthly or annual fee and make claims for private healthcare you receive. Your insurance will cover some or all of the costs of these treatments, depending on what’s included in your plan.
A private health insurance policy can provide cover for different kinds of medical diagnosis and treatment both in hospital and as an out-patient.
How to choose the best health insurance
People buy health insurance for a variety of reasons (see Is Health Insurance Worth Having?) and the private medical insurance market is growing in the UK. New products and health insurance companies are emerging, adding to the bewildering array of options. Thankfully, ActiveQuote offers free regulated advice if you have any questions. They’ll help you understand which health insurance policies will suit you best based on your needs. Get in touch with them here.Here are some steps you should take when searching for a health insurance quote:
How to choose the best health insurance
People buy health insurance for a variety of reasons (see Is Health Insurance Worth Having?) and the private medical insurance market is growing in the UK. New products and health insurance companies are emerging, adding to the bewildering array of options.
Thankfully, ActiveQuote offers free regulated advice if you have any questions. They’ll help you understand which health insurance policies will suit you best based on your needs. Get in touch with them here.
Here are some steps you should take when searching for a health insurance quote:
1. Use a comparison site
You can easily compare prices using a specialist health and life insurance comparison site like ActiveQuote.com.
ActiveQuote can help you better understand what’s included in all the policies available to you. You can search for key benefits that matter to you most — out-patient cover, for example — and compare the level of cover offered against the price of your monthly premiums. That way, you can find a policy that meets all of your needs as well as your budget.
2. Compare specific features rather than just price
Finding the best health insurance for you means looking for specific features and benefits within policies, rather than overall price and scores alone. Health policies can be flexible, so tailor the cover to your needs when getting a quote and make sure it is within your budget. You can do this yourself by going directly to each provider or via ActiveQuote, where you can simultaneously tailor cover across multiple brands to compare them.
Think about whether you want:
- Access to quicker diagnosis
- Access to better or more convenient hospitals and treatments
- Cover for specific illnesses or drugs
- Remote GP app
- Mental health treatments or advise
- Discounts on healthy lifestyle services like gyms
The different types of health insurance in the UK
The degree of cover you’ll get in a private health insurance policy varies depending on your plan and the company you purchase it from. Generally speaking, the types of policies available fall into the following categories:
Private medical insurance (comprehensive plan)
In the UK, a full health insurance policy is also called ‘private medical insurance’. These policies can provide cover for a range of medical diagnoses and treatments, whether you’re an in-patient or not. The degree of cover varies depending on the policy and company, but they are typically the most comprehensive plans available.
With the rising costs of healthcare, private medical insurance can also be the most expensive. Prices tend to rise as policyholders get older; those in their forties and fifties will most likely pay more for their insurance than someone of a similar medical history in their thirties.
The level of cover you select will also influence the price of your premiums. The more comprehensive your coverage, the more you can expect to pay, whether that’s monthly or annually.
While private health insurance may seem unaffordable for some, having no insurance in place for things like cancer can be more costly in the long run. NHS treatment doesn’t offer some of the other benefits of insurance, which can include compensation for lost earnings.
While cancer cover is often an optional add-on, it’s sometimes included as standard in some health insurance policies. Vitality, for example, includes Advanced Cancer Cover in all its policies, covering all types of cancer. It offers full cover for things like radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and cancer surgery. It also discounts screenings and risk assessments for breast, bowel and cervical cancer.
On the other hand, you can also take out a separate cancer insurance policy. Aviva's Cancer Essentials cover provides up to £100,000 for cancer drugs that the NHS won’t pay for on financial grounds. It also includes a cash benefit so you’ll get a £5,000 lump sum upon cancer diagnosis to ease your financial concerns.
Take care to read the terms and conditions to be sure the definition of 'being diagnosed’ with a condition is clear, as this is the main factor in deciding if and when the policy will pay out.
Another type of UK health cover is the Cash Plan. It’s intended for health expenses that aren’t particularly costly but must be paid out frequently, such as paying for opticians, chiropodists and physiotherapists. As a result, it is important to see it separately from health insurance or private medical cover itself.
However, many cash plans operate as a percentage cashback scheme, meaning they only pay a percentage (often 50% or 75%) of the costs incurred rather than the full amount. For example, Freedom Healthnet offers 50% cashback on the cost of treatment if it’s required as part of a course of active cancer.
Cash plans typically limit you to claiming a set amount of money per year for each of the agreed categories of treatment, depending on the policy you choose. Alternatively, a full private health insurance policy may have a higher limit on payments — or even no limits at all. As such, cash plan policies tend to be cheaper: MoneySavingExpert.com quoted cover from £15 per month in August 2018.
When deciding which type of health insurance policy is best for you, consider that many major hospital treatments included in a full private medical insurance policy are not covered at all by cash plans.
How much does health insurance cost in the UK?
The cost of private medical insurance depends on several factors to do with your personal circumstances.
Your age and your location are two factors that influence your premiums. Some areas of the UK have higher life expectancies than others and better access to affordable hospital facilities. Health insurers take these personal circumstances into account when they calculate your premium, along with the level of cover you want, to give you a quote for health insurance.
With so many different factors in play, it’s hard to give a specific 'cost' of private health insurance. A young person in a cheaper postcode can pay under £20 a month with limited cover, whereas an older person in central London requiring comprehensive cover can easily pay over £100 a month.
We investigated the prices of health insurance premiums in our article on the costs of private healthcare. We've also listed how much it would cost to pay for individual private treatments without health insurance.
You can compare health insurance quotes online for your own circumstances from multiple providers in minutes using ActiveQuote, a specialist price comparison site for health insurance. You can even use it to get free professional advice over the phone.
Private health insurance and pre-existing conditions
Many pre-existing conditions aren’t covered by health insurers. Exactly how these conditions are treated will depend on the terms of the insurer and the underwriting method you choose when taking out your policy. We've written an in-depth piece on health insurance for people with pre-existing medical conditions.
Some insurers will have a set of pre-existing conditions that aren’t covered in their standard policies. These will typically include chronic conditions (long-term health issues that require ongoing treatment and monitoring) such as diabetes and hypertension, as well as procedures that are deemed to be not medically necessary like cosmetic surgery. It’s worth checking your policy wording to understand the exclusions or see if ActiveQuote can advise on what each provider does and doesn’t cover..
Before you get a quote, you can choose several different underwriting options. If you have any pre-existing conditions that are not on the exclusion list, then these different options will change how the conditions are treated in the future.
Pre-existing conditions are something older people might need to take into account. We've also written a guide to health insurance for older people.
Types of private health underwriting
Below are the most common underwriting options for private health insurance policies.
Full medical underwriting
With full medical underwriting, insurers ask for your medical history and go through your circumstances in detail to arrive at a bespoke price and their cover terms.
You will need to check these terms in detail because they may decide to exclude a pre-existing condition completely, exclude it for a specific period of time after which it is then covered (assuming no symptoms in the meantime) or include it.
With moratorium underwriting, there is no need to submit any medical information or history.
The terms typically state that you are not covered for any medical condition that you have had in the last five years and that this remains the case for the first two years of the policy. If you are trouble-free (it’s important to be clear on what each insurer’s definition of ‘trouble-free’ is) of any pre-existing conditions throughout those two years, then you will be covered for all conditions from the third year onwards.
If you switch from another health insurer, the Moratorium period may be carried over rather than starting again. It’s worth noting that if you do make a claim, the insurer is likely to ask for information about your medical history at that point to confirm that the claim doesn’t relate to a pre-existing condition.
Some insurers will accept a continuation of cover; that is, copying all the existing exclusions on your current policy from another provider. In this case, there could be some variations in terms, so check and see that there are no material differences when considering a switch.
Choosing the right cover for you
The cover you choose depends on a wide range of personal circumstances and the prices offered. Some will see the benefit of going through the longer, more intrusive Full Medical Underwriting process as it gives greater clarity on what will and what will not be covered before you buy.
Others prefer the convenience of the Moratorium process when buying and accept that there’s a possibility that when they make a claim it might be turned down if their medical history shows it was or is related to a condition that existed prior to buying the policy.
Note that when you buy online, several insurers only offer Moratorium underwriting. This is because the Full Medical Underwriting process requires in-depth discussion about your medical history, which is best done over the phone or through dedicated forms. If you are looking for Full Medical Underwriting, it’s worth calling insurers directly to get a clear picture of what a bespoke policy would look like for you.
Can I get dental health insurance?
Dental issues are often excluded from UK Health Insurance policies. However, there are some exceptions and some ways that dental cover can be included, depending on the provider and the dental work in question.
If dental cover is important to you, it's worth comparing policies from dental insurance providers. For example, Bupa does not offer any dental cover with its health insurance policy: instead, it has a separate dental product that can be bought independently of health cover.
What does Dental Health Insurance cover?
Dental Health Insurance typically covers the following:
- Oral surgery — Cover for more extensive dental procedures, typically those for which your dentist has referred you to a hospital. This includes things like tooth extractions and reconstructive work. Insurers that offer cover for oral surgery include Aviva, which offers up to £600 cover for dental treatment following an accident (available as an optional add-on) and Vitality, which offers optional cover for major dental treatment up to £2,500. Please note that you may not be covered for treatments that your dentist carries out.
- Routine dental treatment — Check-ups and dental deep-cleans are counted as routine treatments; essentially, it’s most things that can easily be done at your dentist’s office. Aviva offers £250 cover for routine dental treatments with a £50 excess. AXA offers an add-on that pays 80% cashback on dental treatments up to £400 per year.
These are only examples of the policies available. Always ensure you check the terms and conditions of your policy to be sure you understand the cover you are buying. To help, you can compare the levels of dental cover for different policies using ActiveQuote.com
Read our guide to the best dental insurance policies.
Can I get expat or international health insurance?
On a standard health insurance policy, most UK companies will not cover any treatment costs that are incurred outside the UK. Therefore, regular travellers, expatriates or those heading abroad for extended periods may need to look for alternative options.
Health insurance providers that offer international cover
- WPA — Covers up to £500,000 for 70 days per trip with a maximum of 180 days
- AXA — Provides optional international health insurance aimed at non-UK residents. Covers transport costs to get to a hospital (even international flights) and consultancy fees for second opinions.
- Bupa — Covers emergency health treatments with no overall annual limit on the majority of eligible medical expenses and no excess to pay on medical cover, even in the United States. It also covers many pre-existing medical conditions.
- Freedom — Covers medical treatment for acute conditions when you have to be admitted to hospital, as well as surgery, cancer treatment and medical evacuation. However, it does not cover pre-existing medical conditions.
International health insurance is not the same as a travel insurance policy, which is designed for shorter trips rather than living abroad. Make sure you understand which cover best suits your needs.
You can get specialist advice and quotes for international health insurance from ActiveQuote.
Our guide to travel insurance for medical conditions also offers information on getting cover.
Health insurance during pregnancy
With health insurance, pregnancy is generally viewed as ‘not an illness’, which, while technically correct, is not reassuring for expecting mothers and fathers. As a result, health insurance policy documents can be vague or confusing in relation to pregnancy, describing that ‘routine’ pregnancy is not covered.
The good news is that some insurers will cover some events relating to pregnancy complications.
Insurance providers that cover pregnancy complications
While AXA rules out routine pregnancy treatment, it may cover medical conditions developed during pregnancy. It also provides a list of conditions that would be covered in its policy documents, including costs for treating ectopic pregnancies, retained placentas and miscarriages requiring immediate surgical treatment.
Similar to AXA, Aviva will cover some pregnancy complications even though it doesn’t cover routine treatments. These include ectopic pregnancies, retained placentas and caesarean sections under specific clinical conditions (decided on a case-by-case basis). If you have mental health cover on your policy, Aviva will also cover treatment for postnatal depression.
Freedom offers cover for pregnancy complications in its Freedom Elite package. This includes full cover for specialist and hospital fees whether you’re an inpatient or a day-patient. It also pays a maternity cash benefit, meaning you get £150 for each child born (as long as you’ve had the Freedom Elite plan at least 10 months prior to the birth).
Vitality states that it does provide cover for pregnancy complications on its core health insurance policy.
These, and other features, can be compared across providers and policy levels using Activequote.com.
Our guide to travel insurance for medical conditions also offers information on getting cover.
For more information, read our in-depth article on pregnancy and health insurance.
Does health insurance cover cosmetic surgery?
While many insurers will cover what they deem to be ‘reconstructive surgery’, they usually don’t cover cosmetic surgery.
For example, AXA makes that distinction and is happy to cover what it calls the ‘first reconstructive surgery’ – that is, plastic surgery that is necessary following an accident or as a result of surgery for a covered medical condition. It says that it will not cover any treatment that then relates to the reconstruction.
AXA will not cover cosmetic surgery, nor will it cover conditions relating to previous cosmetic procedures.
Bupa states that ‘non-essential surgery’ is not covered but does not go into details on how that is defined.
Does health insurance cover complementary therapies?
Complementary therapies are usually considered in their own category by health insurers. They typically comprise the following:
- Chiropractic treatments
- Dietary services
- Physiotherapy (some insurers define this as complementary, while others deem it necessary)
Health insurance providers often offer complementary therapies as an add-on option to their main policies.
Insurers that cover complementary and alternative therapies
AXA offers cover for out-patient treatment fees for complementary therapies including physiotherapy, chiropractic treatment, osteopathy and acupuncture if you have their Therapies option added to your policy. It allows a maximum of 10 GP-referred appointments in any one year.
Aviva insures alternative therapies as an optional add-on to its core health insurance policies. It covers physiotherapy, osteopathy and chiropractic on referral by a specialist for up to 10 sessions in total per condition.
Vitality allows you to add Therapies Cover to your standard health insurance policy. Doing so will give you full cover for osteopathy, chiropractic treatment, podiatry, acupuncture and homoeopathy, as well as two consultations with a dietician following a referral from your GP or consultant.
You can compare the levels of complementary therapy and the premiums across providers and policy levels by using Activequote.com.
Is 'unlimited' cover really unlimited?
The top levels of cover provided by different policies usually describe the amounts insured as ‘unlimited’ or similar. This wording sends a comforting message; that no matter what the bill, your cover will apply.
However, in practice, some features in your policy may mean this isn’t quite the case.
When you get a quote, companies will highlight some exclusions to unlimited cover. For example, while you might get unlimited cover for treatments in one hospital, you may not be covered if you need to be transferred to another one, or if you’d prefer certain treatments elsewhere.
In practice, consultants are technically free to decide their own fees, so if they choose to charge more than your insurer’s approved rate, you may not be able to claim back the full amount. Typically, this isn’t a problem because many doctors choose to charge the approved rates. However, sometimes your specific situation or location can mean there’s no option at the approved rates and you’ll be left out of pocket.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that there’s more than one person needed for an operation. For example, anaesthetists are just as critical to a procedure as a surgeon and you will also have to cover their fees.
It’s hard to know in advance what treatment you’re going to need and, therefore, whether there’s a specialist nearby. So when buying, it is worth exploring with the insurer to understand whether you should put extra money aside in case of a shortfall.
Customer reviews can be helpful in understanding how comprehensive cover can be in practice. It's worth sifting through a few of the bad reviews (if any exist) as they can often relate to a situation where they did not receive a payout, despite the customer expecting to be covered.
Note down any questions you have when reading the terms and conditions of the policy and contact the insurer directly to ask about them before buying.
If you would like more information on the providers at the top of our list have a look at our detailed reviews.
Who are the biggest health insurance companies in the UK?
There are four companies that dominate UK health insurance. This section gives a brief overview of the four biggest UK health insurers and a fifth that has high search demand.
Vitality used to be known as PruHealth. It aims to keep its customers healthy by offering a range of rewards and discounts relating to health and leisure. It has had a big marketing push in recent years, with campaigns fronted by the likes of Jessica Ennis-Hill. Read our full review here.
Bupa is a giant in health insurance. Launching two years before the NHS, it owns several hospitals, care homes and dental centres across the UK. It offers private care for individuals and through some companies' benefit schemes. Read our full review here.
Aviva used to be called Norwich Union and it is the biggest insurer in the UK. Its history stretches back more than 300 years and it deals with millions of claims around the world every year. Read our full review here.
AXA launched in 1940 and has become one of the biggest health insurance providers in the UK. AXA was named Health Insurance Provider of the year at the Moneyfacts Consumer Awards 2018. Read our full review here.
Health insurance reviews
Find out the important information about the best health insurance in the UK below.
Vitality Health Insurance Review
Vitality's health insurance compares well with the best in the market. It’s rated ‘Excellent’ on Trustpilot, with a score of 4.3 out of 5 based on more than 22,000 reviews (as of March 2021). Customers praise its market-leading rewards system as well as its responsive customer service team.
Vitality offers health and life insurance. This review is about their Private Health Insurance policy (previously called "PruHealth").
Vitality has a unique offering in the UK Health Insurance market. The company combines its healthcare offer with a set of discounts and rewards for healthy activities. It’s belief is that the healthier your lifestyle, the less you’ll need to claim.
Vitality uses technology to monitor your healthy activity. It uses things like fitness trackers and mobile apps to get real-time updates on your fitness and rewards you accordingly. Vitality even offers a free Apple Watch to new members joining on a qualifying health insurance or life insurance plan.
Vitality's Core Cover health insurance includes:
- In-patient and day-patient treatments
- Consultants fees
- Out-patient surgical procedures
- Cancer Cover (with no limits on selected therapies)
- Oral surgery
- Pregnancy complications
- Weight loss surgery
- Talking therapies
You can tailor your cover with additional options to get the best policy for you. Extras you can add include an additional hospital in which you want to be covered, out-patient cover (for consultations and diagnostics), therapies, and mental health cover. You can also add worldwide travel cover through Vitality's travel partner, Mr & Mrs Smith, which includes up to £10 million for emergency medical expenses.
Vitality's health and leisure rewards and discounts are unique features of the policy. They are intended to help customers understand their health, take part in healthy activities and be rewarded for them.
There are some standard treatments and conditions that Vitality does not cover. These include any regular monitoring and treatment of a long-term condition (e.g. diabetes), emergency treatments, visits to your GP, organ transplants, and any experimental treatments (i.e. those that are unproven or unregistered).
To help customers engage with their health, you’ll get cashback and discounts with health brands and shops if you keep up healthy habits. You can build up points by completing healthy activities like eating well and regularly hitting 10,000 steps a day. When you have enough points, you can use them to get rewards like:
- Free coffees at participating vendors
- Amazon Prime memberships
- Discounts on health screenings
- Gym membership discount
- Monthly cinema tickets
You can get an online health insurance quote from Vitality via their website and over the phone. To see if they are right for you, compare Vitality policies versus the market at Activequote.com.
For more in-depth information, you can also read our full Vitality Health Insurance review.
Bupa Health Insurance Review
Bupa sells the most health insurance policies in the UK. It has boiled down its range to two levels of cover.
- Comprehensive — The top level of insurance that Bupa provides, covering diagnosis (including consultations, PET, MRI and CT scans plus other diagnostic tests) and treatments (including hospital and out-patient treatments as well as mental health therapies).
- Treatment and Care — Allows you to be diagnosed by the NHS and then receive treatment privately. It also includes two levels of cancer cover.
Bupa's policies have fewer options to choose from compared with other providers. It only asks you to decide on what levels of outpatient and cancer cover you want, as well as the excess level you are comfortable with.
Bupa's market-leading position includes ownership of hospitals, care homes and dental practices so they understand customers’ health needs and how to treat them well. With 2.3m customers in the UK and 33 million worldwide (as of March 2021), there’s a variety of experiences that can be found in customer review sites.
For example, Bupa fares well on Trustpilot, garnering an impressive 4.4 out of 5 based on more than 8,000 reviews, but on Smart Money People it has a disappointing rating of just 1.86 out of 5 (March 2021). While some customers praise Bupa for its good selection of hospitals and top facilities, others criticised its lack of transparency and unexplained changes to cover.
You can see how it compares with other providers using the Activequote.com comparison site.
For more in-depth information, you can also read our full BUPA Health Insurance review.
AXA PPP Healthcare Review
AXA is the second-largest provider health insurance provider in the UK and it's Bupa's main competitor. According to Craft, its global value is a staggering $64.8 billion.
AXA’s core private health insurance package is called Personal Health. Its benefits include:
- Use of AXA’s Fast Track Appointments service, which provides access to consultants and eligible treatment when you include an outpatient option on your plan.
- Access to the latest approved cancer drugs (even if they’re not available on the NHS)
- A directory of over 250 hospitals and thousands of consultants
- Health at Hand, a 24-hour support helpline with nurses and counsellors
- Health insurance for family members (including free cover for new-borns)
- Full Cancer Cover
- Diagnostic tests
- Surgical procedures
One of the advantages of choosing AXA is that there is no yearly limit for fees from a specialist on its ‘fee approved’ list. That means you can get as much treatment as you need without worrying about going over your limit.
On top of AXA's Personal Health plan, you can add a number of optional extras, including:
- Mental Health — Add this option to your policy to get access to in-patient, day-patient or out-patient mental health treatment.
- Dentist and Optician Cashback — Get cashback when you pay for dentist and opticians fees.
- Out-patient — Out-patient treatment, diagnostic test and CT, MRI and PET scans.
- Therapies — Out-patient treatment fees with a physiotherapist, chiropractor, osteopath, acupuncturist or homoeopath
Other variables that affect your cover and price with AXA are the level of excess you choose (£0, £100, £250 or £500) and whether or not you opt for AXA's ‘6-week rule’.
This 6-week rule is intended to allow you to get access to private treatment when NHS waiting times are long, but avoid making a claim when the NHS waiting list is short. If you opt for the 6-week rule, you'll agree to NHS treatment within 6 weeks of diagnosis. If the NHS can treat you within this period, you must take that route and private treatment is not covered. If the NHS waiting list is longer than 6 weeks, then you’re covered for private treatment.
If you opt in for the 6-weeks rule, your premium will be lower to reflect the fact that you may use NHS treatment in some cases. It works similarly to Saga's 4-week option; AXA is Saga's health insurance underwriter so it is no surprise to see some similarity in their products.
For more in-depth information, you can also read our full AXA Health Insurance review.
Aviva Health Insurance Review
Aviva is the largest insurer in the UK, with over 15 million customers as of March 2021. Health insurance is only one of the many products it covers: it also provides car, home and business cover.
Aviva's core health insurance package covers a wide-ranging list of illnesses and conditions, including:
- Acute conditions — Short-term illnesses or injuries that can be easily treated, such as viruses and infections.
- Cancer care — Cover for cancer diagnosis, treatment and aftercare (part of Aviva’s ‘Cancer Pledge’).
- Hospital and specialist fees — Comprehensive cover for things like diagnostic tests (such as X-rays and scans), specialist treatment, and aftercare.
- Out-patient consultations — Everything covered under hospital fees, but extending cover to out-patients too.
Aviva also provides you with access to hundreds of private hospitals and facilities throughout the UK when you choose its Expert Select or Hospital Options packages.
There are a number of additional cover options you can attach to your policy:
- Dental and optical cover
- Mental health treatments
- An extended hospital list (namely, more hospitals available in the Greater London area)
- Additional treatments and therapies (including physiotherapy and osteopathy)
However, there are some notable exclusions on an Aviva policy. Aviva won’t cover chronic illnesses like diabetes, epilepsy and asthma (with the notable exception that it will cover cancer treatments). Typically, it also excludes any pre-existing medical conditions; if you opt for Moratorium underwriting, Aviva will ask for details about any conditions you’ve had in the last five years. Finally, Aviva will not cover routine treatment related to pregnancy and childbirth.
Aviva has won several awards for its health insurance services. In 2020, it was named “Health Insurance & Protection Company of the Year” and “Best Individual PMI Provider” at the Health Insurance & Protection Awards. Aviva’s health insurance is rated 8.6 out of 10 based on more than 3,900 reviews on Compare By Review (as of March 2021).
For more in-depth information, you can also read our full Aviva Health Insurance review.
Health-On-Line Insurance Review
Since then it has grown rapidly and is part of the AXA Group. In fact, the companies are closely integrated: Health-on-Line's salespeople can advise you and sell you both a Health-on-Line policy or an AXA policy. AXA also underwrites Health-on-Line's policies.
Health-on-Line aims to give you control over your cover, offering modules and choices to tailor it to your needs. It puts an emphasis on making health insurance easier and more accessible for people by minimising jargon.
It also has a strong focus on customer service. Health-on-Line has what it calls a Dedicated Account Manager service. This means that whenever you get in touch with them, you’ll be connected with the same person who sold you your policy for continuity of care.
Heath-On-Line offers four main types of cover:
- Health For You — Health-on-Line's entry-level Private Medical Insurance policy. It covers heart and cancer care but also in-patient treatment for a range of other conditions or treatments. This option lets you manage your policy online with options to video-call your GP.
- Personal Health— Offering comprehensive medical cover at over 250 UK hospitals and 24,000 specialists.
- inSpire — Gives you flexible private cover with two major UK hospital networks: Spire Healthcare and Ramsay Health Care.
On its most basic level of cover, Health-on-Line covers in-patient and day-patient unit fees as long as you use a location specified on its list of approved hospitals. There’s no yearly limit on fees from approved specialists. Out-patients have unlimited yearly cover for specialist-referred surgeries too.
Additionally, Health-on-Line will provide cash payments when you have free inpatient treatment under the NHS (£50 a night up to £2,000 a year). It’ll also pay for oral surgery in full as long as you use a facility that has an agreement in place with Health-on-Line.
On Health-on-Line's Health For You package, you can choose one level of Cancer Cover to include on your policy. Comprehensive Cancer Cover gives you the highest level of coverage (including private surgeries, chemotherapy and specialist consultations), while NHS Cancer Support is a more affordable alternative, which will only cover you for licensed cancer drugs that might not be available on the NHS.
Learn more in our in-depth Health-on-Line health insurance review.
Saga Health Insurance Review
Saga is aimed at over 50s. It features a range of health insurance products designed to cover a variety of ailments.
Saga has four health plans to choose from:
- Super — Saga’s most comprehensive policy, covering both in-patient and out-patient treatment as well as diagnostic procedures. It provides unlimited cover on specialist consultations and things like physiotherapy charges.
- Secure — On top of in-patient and day-patient treatments, Secure provides full cover for out-patient CT, MRI and PET scans. It also gives benefits like £2,000 towards out-patient consultations and an extra £400 towards post-operative treatment.
- Saver Plus — A cheaper alternative to the Super and Secure options that still includes some good benefits. Included is up to £1,000 towards out-patient treatment, cover for one out-patient scan and unlimited scans following eligible in-patient or day-patient treatments (as long as it’s within 8 months).
- Support — Includes prompt access for treatment, a choice of private UK hospitals from our extensive list and 24-hour access to the Saga GP Service. This is Saga’s most affordable plan; to keep premiums low, it offers no out-patient cover and only surgical aspects of cancer treatment.
Saga provides a number of options that allow you to reduce cover and lower your premium, or pay more to get greater cover. These include Extended Cancer Cover, varying levels of Excess and cover for hypertension.
A unique feature of Saga is its ‘4-week wait’ option. This reduces your premium, but in return, the policyholder has to accept NHS treatment if it is available within 4 weeks of the date of diagnosis. This is intended to provide a cost-effective method to get the advantages of rapid treatment when you need it, but avoid paying extra when you don’t. The full terms and conditions of these options can be seen on Saga's site.
Saga’s health insurance underwriter is AXA PPP. This set-up combines AXA's underwriting knowledge with Saga's focus on the over 50's market, with the intention of creating a product as a 'best buy' for the over 50s.
You learn more about its products on Saga's site.
Saga doesn't feature on comparison sites but it is always worth shopping around. You can compare a range of other health insurance policies using Activequote.com. It allows you to filter by pricing and cover to see how they stack up against Saga's own offering.
Freedom Health Insurance Review
Freedom is an award-winning private medical insurer set up in 2003. It aims to offer exceptional customer service with simple, flexible products and competitive prices.
Freedom Health Insurance is rated well on Feefo with 4.4 out of 5. However, this rating is based on less than 100 reviews (as of March 2021).
Freedom offers two core packages to choose from:
- Elite — Freedom’s most comprehensive policy. It covers fees for eligible hospitals, specialists and diagnostic tests in full for both in-patients and day-patients. It includes things like dental surgery, diagnostic scans, cancer cover and pregnancy complications.
- Essentials — A more affordable alternative to Elite that offers a fixed cash benefit instead of paying your hospital directly. With Freedom Essentials, you’ll be paid a lump sum for a claim which you can spend on private treatment in the UK or abroad. If you decide to use the NHS for your treatment, you’ll still receive 50% of the cash benefit to spend however you want.
While the degree of choice afforded by the Essentials package is certainly attractive, the downside is that, unlike other health insurers, they won't pick up the bill if it exceeds the cash amount you are paid upfront. If your condition turns out to be very complicated, you may find the cash is insufficient, even though Freedom aims to provide amounts that are suited to each treatment.
To learn more, read our in-depth Freedom Health Insurance review.
Permanent Health Company Review
Perhaps less well-known than the other names in this list, the Permanent Health Company (PHC) has been offering UK Private Medical Insurance since 1994. Its policies are underwritten by AXA PPP, so while you might not recognise the name you are buying from, a big-name company is involved behind the scenes.
The Permanent Health Company’s intent has been to offer a simple product to cut through the complexity of the UK Health insurance market.
PHC offers four insurance plans, each offering different levels of cover:
- Plan 1 — PHC’s highest level of cover. It provides comprehensive cover for both in-patients and out-patients. Other benefits include private ambulance trips, home nursing, and full cover for selected therapies (including physiotherapy). Also provides a newborn benefit.
- Plan 2 — Affords the same benefits as Plan 1 but with a combined overall limit of up to £1,500 a year for complementary therapies. Excludes newborn benefit.
- Plan 3 — Provides full cover for in-patient benefits. Covers out-patient CT, MRI and PET scans as well as radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Includes a limit of £1,000 on therapies.
- Plan 4 — Provides cover for selected in-patient and day-patient treatments. Out-patient treatment is limited to two consultations per year and £500 for complementary therapies.
With the exception of Plan 4, each of PHC’s policies can be tailored with additional features, such as psychiatric cover and lower premiums with the NHS 6-week wait option.
PHC also offers customers multiple options of hospitals they want to be insured for. The basic offering is the national directory, which provides you with access to 480 hospitals in the UK. You can opt for the London upgrade, which gives you extended access to additional hospitals in the Greater London Area. Alternatively, you can choose PHC’s Specified Hospital List, which covers two of the country’s largest private hospital networks: Spire Healthcare and Ramsay Health Care UK.
You can tailor your PHC policy further by selecting the level of excess you want to pay. Excess options range from £100 to £2,500, and the higher the excess you agree to, the less you can expect to pay on your premiums.
The Permanent Health Company sells directly through its own website and over the phone. You can compare its policies and prices versus the market to find your own 'best buy' using activequote.com.
For more in-depth information, you can also read our full PHC Health Insurance review.
General Medical Health Insurance Review
General Medical was originally the supplier of health insurance for the medical profession. It offers four key policy tiers with additional options for in-patient psychiatric treatment and worldwide travel that should mean you find the policy to suit your own needs. They are as follows:
- Elite — All the benefits of Lifestyle plus dental, private maternity cover and opticians services.
- Lifestyle — Advanced cover for any hospital admissions, plus extra out-patient benefits, treatment for heart conditions and a 24-hour GP advice helpline.
- Everyday — A more comprehensive level of cover than Essentials that includes out-patient cover and more cancer treatments.
- Essentials — A cost-effective healthcare plan providing basic cover for in-patient treatment, scans, consultations and admittance to private hospitals for surgeries.
In addition, General Medical also provides a unique option that allows you to get some cover for a pre-existing condition (which almost all medical insurers exclude), including diabetes and hypertension.
The policy starts out with a low limit on claims relating to the condition in the first year, which increases every year you are claim-free. This can be attractive for people with pre-existing conditions that are now under control.
Learn more about getting health insurance for people with pre-existing medical conditions.
You can read more in our in-depth General and Medical Health Insurance review.
Alternatively, you can compare all of these providers using Activequote.com's price and feature comparison service.
HMCA (Hospital & Medical Care Association) Health Insurance Review
HMCA offers a range of health and other insurance plans for members of trade, professional and membership groups. Its health cover is arranged through The Care Insurance Company Ltd, Gibraltar.
HMCA splits its private medical insurance into three plans:
- Medical Care Plan — Provides benefits towards out-patient and in-patient treatments, even while you travel abroad. This is HMCA’s more comprehensive form of cover.
- Medical Saver Plan — Covers in-patient treatment and lets you get treatment abroad too.
- Medical Starter Plan — HMCA’s most affordable plan. It only covers in-patient treatments in the UK.
There are no excess or age restrictions on any of HMCA’s medical care plans.
Some things are excluded from HMCA’s cover. Examples include emergency admissions to A&E, radiotherapy or chemotherapy and management of long-term illnesses. However, its plans do pay cash grants towards radiotherapy or chemotherapy and for each night spent as an NHS patient. It also offers cash plans, dental cover and income protection.
To get a quote, you'll need to fill in an online form on the HMCA website and they'll get in touch with you to discuss your options.
All Health Insurance Reviews
For even more in-depth reviews on different health insurance providers in the UK, see links below:
- Review: Saga Health Insurance
- Review: Aviva Health Insurance
- Review: AXA Health Insurance
- Review: Freedom Health Insurance
- Review: Bupa Health Insurance
- Review: WPA Health Insurance
- Review: April Health Insurance
- Review: PHC Health Insurance
- Review: Universal Provident Health Insurance
- Review: Health-on-Line Health Insurance
- Review: Vitality Health Insurance
- Review: Simplyhealth