Health insurance Do I need health insurance?

Doctor and patient 2

With free treatment on the NHS, why would anyone buy health insurance? We explain when it might be appropriate and outline the alternatives.

Should I buy health insurance?

Health insurance is not without its merits. It fast-tracks consultations and covers private treatment for short-term medical issues.

However, there are many exclusions; you are not covered for long-term treatment such as kidney dialysis, or illnesses such as asthma and normal pregnancy, non-essential cosmetic treatments and any pre-existing medical conditions you may have.

It's worth considering the alternatives, below, before making a decision

What are the alternatives to health insurance (apart from the NHS)?

Health insurance from your employer

This is more of an alternative way to pay for health insurance, but many employers offer it as a perk of the job, and it's usually much cheaper than it would be if you paid yourself.

Employer health insurance schemes are often more generous - for example, they may cover pre-existing conditions. And most insurers allow you to switch to a personal policy without losing your extras.

Healthcare cashplans

Healthcare cashplans cover everyday treatments such as dental work, specs and contact lenses, and physiotherapy. You pay a monthly premium, then when you need any medical help you pay upfront and then claim the cost back from your provider. There's an annual limit on how much you can claim, with more comprehensive policies having higher limits.

Critical illness cover

Critical illness cover pays out a cash lump sum if you're diagnosed with one of a number of listed critical illnesses, including some types of cancer, a heart attack or stroke, multiple sclerosis or the loss of limbs.

The illnesses covered vary between insurers, so get advice before buying a policy and check the policy document. Pre-existing conditions tend to be excluded, but some insurers will base cover on your medical history

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