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Cheap Health Insurance Full cost-cutting plan

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Health insurance ain't cheap. It should be viewed as a luxury, not a necessity, given the NHS provides comprehensive medical treatment to anyone who needs it, regardless of their ability to pay.

But if you decide to get insurance, you need to know exactly what you've bought. This guide will take you through what health insurance covers, what to look out for, and where you can get the best deals.

What is health insurance?

Health insurance, also known as private medical insurance, covers the cost of private medical treatment for Ďacuteí medical conditions - diseases, illnesses or injuries likely to respond quickly to treatment.

Like other insurance products there are different levels of cover, at a range of different premiums. If you buy cover, pick the policy which is best suited to you.

People typically buy health insurance to avoid NHS waiting lists of up to four months. They receive faster consultations and private treatment for short-term, curable problems.

Health insurance can cover the cost of private day patient surgery, tests and hospital accommodation. But it may excludes trips to a GP, accident & emergency or an organ transplant. See inclusions and exclusions for more.

Health insurance need-to-knows

1Do I really need it?

There are a number of alternatives to health insurance. They include self-insurance, cash plans, workplace schemes and the NHS.

There are also a number of policy restrictions, so make sure you NEED it before you buy: Full info:

2It may not cover pre-existing conditions

Health insurance isnít designed to cover you for every health issue that might occur. It covers treatment for acute conditions that start after your policy begins - so you may still need treatment via the NHS in some cases. Full info:

3Your premiums will increase over time

Even though there's competition in the health insurance market, the sad fact is that whatever policy you choose, your premiums are likely to rise each year above the rate of general inflation. Full info:

4Lots of treatments are NOT covered

Your individual policy will outline exactly what you are and what you aren't covered for. There are some pretty standard inclusions and exclusions, such as a trip to A&E, normal pregnancy and cosmetic surgery. Full info:

Health insurance best buys

We got quotes from the big players in the market to see who comes out on top. To make it fair, all quotes have a zero excess (so you pay nothing towards a claim), unlimited outpatient care (these depend on what the doctor charges) and full cancer treatment coverage.

Health insurance policies aren't easy to compare, so we're never going to be able to provide a like-for-like comparison. Some areas of coverage are standard with some providers, optional with others; while some have discount offers for the first year or rewards programmes.

For a healthy, non-smoking 35-year-old man (best buys at October 2013):

Provider

£ per year (before discount)

PruHealth

£742

Exeter Family Friendly

£847

Axa PPP

£902

Aviva

£927

Bupa

£1,154


For a healthy, non-smoking 70-year-old man
(best buys at October 2013):

Provider

£ per year (before discount)

Saga

£2,014

Axa PPP

£2,802

Exeter Family Friendly

£2,647

PruHealth

£2,652

Aviva

£2,859

Bupa

£3,173


Best for discounts.
Full info:

Best for joint policies. Full info:

Best for extra perks. Full info:

Cutting the cost of cover

The price of cover depends on a number of factors. Obviously if you want all the bells and whistles, youíre going to pay more. If you want a more standard policy, which is likely to have many exclusions, then itís going to cost you less. As with any other type of insurance:

Your premium will go up if, and when, you claim.

However, there are still ways to cut down your costs. They include:

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I think I might have health insurance through my employer, do I need cover seperately?

What happens if I decide against the policy?

How easy is it to switch insurers?

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