Affordable health insurance in the UK

December 1, 2023
minutes read time

Health insurance is becoming increasingly common in the UK, with an estimated 11.7 million having private cover in place in 2022 (Founder). If you’d like to join individuals with private coverage but are concerned about the cost, there are many ways to make policies more affordable for you and your family.

How to get affordable health insurance

The cost of health insurance varies from person to person. It depends on their lifestyle, policy choice, addons, providers and other factors contributing to the total cost. Making health insurance affordable is a matter of understanding what impacts the price and the actions you can take to help reduce the premium (the monthly or annual amount you pay).

We’ve highlighted below some of the factors that impact the cost, actions you may be able to take to increase affordability, and information on policy options that are less costly. Here’s how to get affordable health insurance:

  1. Stop smoking - Smokers generally have a higher risk of health problems like respiratory diseases and cancer. By quitting smoking, you reduce your risk of needing medical    attention, and insurers may offer you a lower premium due to the lower risk. Some insurers will require that you haven’t smoked for an extended period of time, such as 2 years, before lowering your premiums as a non-smoker.
  2. Enrol early - Health insurance costs rise as you age due to the increased health risks. Purchasing a policy when you’re younger may help you access lower premiums while accessing the same benefits.
  3. Get active and track your workouts - Regular physical activity has been linked to a decrease in many chronic conditions such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. By leading an active lifestyle and documenting it, insurers might offer discounts or better rates reflecting the lower health risks.
  4. Opt for a lower level policy - Choosing a basic or mid-level policy over a comprehensive one can significantly cut costs. You'll have fewer benefits and potentially more exclusions, but the premiums will be lower.
  5. Go through a comparison service - Comparison services allow you to quickly compare various policies and providers. You can find the most competitive rates and choose the best policy for your needs.
  6. Limit your claims - If you can avoid claiming on your policy, you may build up a no-claims discount that reduces your premium in future years. Although this may sound counterintuitive, some cost-conscious individuals may benefit from using the NHS for smaller health conditions and only claiming on their policy when more serious health concerns arise.
  7. Review your policy regularly - Health needs and services change over time. Regularly assessing your policy can ensure you aren't paying for coverages you no longer need or you’re not overpaying for the same service you could receive elsewhere for less.
  8. Treatment waiting periods - Some policies may offer a lower premium if you agree to a benefit limitation period for specific conditions or treatments. This means you'd have to wait a certain period before you can access private medical services through your policy for those conditions.
  9. Increase your policy excess - By opting for a higher excess amount (the amount you pay when making a claim), your premiums will be lowered. However, it’s important to understand that you will pay more when you make a claim.
  10. Minimise your policy extras - Cutting out additional cover options or reducing unnecessary extras can simplify your policy and reduce the premium.
  11. Opt for a reduced hospital list - Some insurers allow you to select from a list of hospitals where you can be treated. By choosing a more limited list or opting for a list in certain locations, you may find your premiums are lower.
  12. Purchase a joint policy - Getting health insurance with a partner or family member may be more cost-effective than two individual policies, as providers might offer discounts for joint policies.
  13. Get cover through your employer - Many employers offer health insurance as a benefit, often at a reduced group rate. This may be more cost-effective than purchasing an individual policy.
  14. Choose a guided option - Some insurance providers offer a "guided option," where the insurer guides you to their preferred healthcare providers. This can reduce costs as these providers might have special agreements with the insurer.
  15. Include a 6-week NHS option - You may have the option to include a 6-week NHS wait option. This means that if the NHS can treat you within six weeks, you'll use their services. Otherwise, you can claim on your private insurance. This can significantly reduce the cost of your premium, as the NHS may cover a number of treatments within that timeframe.
  16. Use an independent broker - Independent health insurance brokers will aim to find you the most affordable cover that still meets your needs. They work separately from providers, meaning they can compare many options across the UK market and work for you only. They can negotiate terms on your behalf, help you compare your options, answer any questions and support you throughout the process. If you’re looking for affordable health insurance, just let them know this, and they’ll aim to find you policies that match.

Affordable health insurance options in more detail

In the above list, we’ve touched on several policy options that may reduce the cost and make health insurance more affordable for you. Each option requires its own explanation to fully understand, so we’ve provided further details below.

Guided options

Guided health insurance is a more affordable way to access private medical insurance. Health insurance providers will decide which medical professionals and facilities you visit for consultations, treatments, check-ups etc.

This allows health insurance companies to streamline their processes and pre-agree costs with medical providers. This cost saving is then passed on to you through reduced premium payments.

You’ll still receive a high level of care, but it allows providers to make cost savings via arrangements they make with medical companies. While this approach can offer monetary savings and peace of mind to policyholders, it also reduces choice as it requires members to use a specific network of providers to maximize their benefits.

It's, therefore, essential for those considering a guided health insurance plan to understand its structure and ensure it aligns with their healthcare preferences and needs. To learn more, visit our dedicated blog on guided health insurance.

Six-week NHS option

The 6-week NHS option is a unique feature offered in some private health insurance providers within the UK and may help to make policies more affordable. This option sees policyholders utilise the NHS as well as private healthcare.

If a policyholder requires a particular medical treatment or surgery and the NHS can provide that treatment within six weeks, then the individual will go through the NHS for their care.

However, if the NHS waiting time for the required procedure is longer than six weeks, the policyholder can then opt to have the treatment privately and claim it through their insurance. This approach offers several advantages:

  1. Cost-Effective - By potentially relying on the NHS for certain treatments, policyholders can often enjoy reduced premiums, making this option more affordable than comprehensive private health insurance.
  2. Flexibility - It offers the best of both worlds, as patients can access private healthcare when NHS wait times are extensive, ensuring timely medical attention.

Joint cover

Joint health insurance is a type of health coverage designed for two or more individuals under a single policy, with common examples being couples and families. This arrangement can provide a practical solution for couples seeking to consolidate their health coverage, often resulting in administrative ease and cost savings. Some of the key points are:

  1. Consolidated coverage - Both individuals are covered under one policy, which can simplify paperwork, premium payments, and policy management.
  2. Potential cost savings - Often, joint policies can be more cost-effective than two or more separate individual policies. Premiums    are generally set based on the age and health of each individual.
  3. Tailored Benefits - Joint health insurance can be tailored to include specific treatments or services relevant to both partners. This ensures that both individuals receive the coverage they need without paying for unnecessary extras.

Business health insurance

Business health insurance is designed for companies who wish to provide an employee benefit to their staff members in the form of private health insurance.

The policy covers multiple individuals under the same terms and, in some cases, may also include cover for family members.

The company pays for business health insurance, making it a more affordable way for an individual to receive coverage. However, employers may not always offer this option, and there are tax implications of employees receiving the benefit.

If it is an option, or you feel your employer may be open to company health insurance, you may find that it’s a more affordable way to access private health services. We have specific information for each business type below if you’d like to learn more or share it with your employer:

  1. Small business health insurance
  2. Corporate health insurance
  3. Group health insurance
  4. Self-employed health insurance

Compare affordable health insurance policies

One of the other ways to find affordable health insurance is to compare your options across the UK market. This will help you understand the costs and inclusions of different policies so that you can make the best decision for you.

We offer a comparison service free of charge for anyone who wants to find the most affordable policy for them. You’re under no obligation to purchase, and you can also ask us any questions you still have about health insurance. To get started, please complete the form below, and we’ll be in touch.

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Jasmine Albano
Written by
Jasmine Albano

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