Private health insurance, or private medical insurance, is a type of insurance policy that covers the cost of private medical care - should you become ill or injured.
While in the UK we’re extremely lucky to have the NHS, private health insurance can help people get faster access to consultants and treatments.
According to ActiveQuote and BoughtByMany the average price for an individual private health insurance policy is £1,115 a year (as of October 2021) – but there are many factors that can make the price go up or down.
What impacts the cost of individual private health insurance?
Your age is one of the biggest factors that determines the cost of your private health insurance, because the older you get the more likely you are to get ill or injured and need diagnosis and treatment.
Where you live
The area you live in and its postcode can affect the price of health insurance – as well as the hospitals you choose to receive treatment in (usually one close to where you live). Broadly speaking, areas around London are likely to be more expensive, and urban areas more expensive than rural areas.
If you smoke
Some health insurance companies may charge you more if you’re a smoker, because it makes you more likely to have a whole range of health problems.
Previous health conditions
Many insurers will ask you about previous health conditions. There may be some that aren’t covered at all, or an increased premium for issues that are going to make you more likely to claim more often.
Insurance companies may also be wary of customers with a history of heavy claims and can put prices up if they think you’re more likely to make a claim.
How much does medical treatment actually cost?
With the NHS it’s all too easy to forget how expensive medical treatments can be – because for most of us it’s always just happened if we need it to.
According to LoveMoney, knee replacement surgery, for instance, could cost anywhere between £12,000 and £16,000 – depending on the hospital, and the details of the treatment and care you need. Cataract surgery, which is less invasive, is likely to cost anywhere from £2,000 to £4,000.
In short, private medical care is expensive – which is why private health insurance exists, and why policies can be expensive, too.
What can make individual private health insurance more affordable?
For most individuals, especially those of us feeling the crunch of soaring utility bills and petrol prices, £1,115 is a sum that puts private healthcare out of reach. But as the NHS continues to struggle with the post-Covid backlog, interest in private health insurance is on the rise.
In a survey conducted by Consumer Intelligence on behalf of Equipsme, we found that interest in private medical insurance had doubled between June 2020 and October 2021. People worried about NHS waiting times are looking for back-up – and ways to afford it.
There are several things you can do to bring down the cost of private health insurance.
Look after yourself
Your premium could reduce if you do things like give up smoking – and of course if you don’t claim on your policy. Just like you get a no claims discount on your car, you may also be able get one on your health insurance.
Increase the excess
You can reduce the cost of a health insurance policy by increasing your excess – the amount you’ll pay out from your own pocket for diagnosis or treatment before your policy kicks in to pay the rest. So if you set your excess at £0, your overall premium will be higher than if you set it at £1,000. But you will have to commit to finding the necessary cash if you need to make a claim - and find it again every year you have your policy.
Paying for your policy in monthly instalments rather than upfront for the entire year means you will often end up paying more for the same cover.
Business Health Insurance
One way to afford health insurance is if it’s part of your benefits package as an employee.
Company health insurance, often called business health insurance or corporate health insurance, can be part of your employee benefits package. It’s treated as a benefit in kind from the employer, so you do pay income tax on it as it is considered to be a gift from the employer to the employee, but the amount is a fraction of what you’d pay for an individual policy.
Since Covid, there’s been something of a benefits revolution as organisations get to grips with new ways of working and new demand from employees, and re-balance their benefits to boost productivity, retain and attract staff.
Nearly 70% of companies actually increased their benefit spend during the pandemic, and nearly 70% of medium sized businesses also recognised that providing health and wellbeing benefits boosted their organisation.
Traditionally, private medical insurance has been something reserved for top managers and executives, but as demand grows and the business case for company health insurance becomes clearer, that’s starting to change.
What’s the average price of an Equipsme business health insurance plan?
Equipsme is one example – we set out to democratise business health cover and make it both practical and affordable for businesses of all sizes, and staff at all levels.
Our most popular plan including diagnosis and treatment costs £33 per employee per month and makes health insurance benefits and services for employees a more realistic option. We also got rid of medical questionnaires on application and instead there is a simple exclusion of pre-existing conditions in the 3 years before cover starts, to try and make business health insurance cover more accessible.
With Equipsme plans, employees can choose to pay themselves to add other benefits and family members – sharing the cost of private health care with their employer.
Find out more about what is and is not covered under our plans here.