Your browser isn't supported
It looks like you're using an old web browser. To get the most out of the site and to ensure guides display correctly, we suggest upgrading your browser now. Download the latest:

Healthcare Cash Plans Claim medical and alternative therapy costs

New to the site? Quick message from Martin:

All the latest deals, guides and loopholes go in MoneySavingExpert's
free weekly email. Don't miss out - join the 9m who get it emailed!

FAQs | Unsubscribe 
Past Emails | Privacy

Cashplans: get some financial first aidWhether it's NHS or private, you can cover dental, optical, alternative treatments and medical costs for just a few pounds a month.

Better still, they can potentially pay back five times what they cost. This is a full step-by-step guide to the best buy healthcare cashback schemes, which should help you find the right one.

For other step-by-step guides and deals, see our insurance page for more help.

What are cash plan schemes?

Technically, they're insurance policies which pay out when you incur healthcare costs. You pay a monthly payment (a premium) and then when you lay out your own cash for a treatment, you can reclaim a percentage of the costs back, up to a pre-determined maximum.

Let's make it simple.

Spend £100 at the osteopath. Send the receipt to the cash plan and it'll typically send you 75% of that back (ie, £75)

However each plan differs on what's covered, the maximum amount you can claim per treatment, and the percentage payout. Though even on cheaper policies, they pay out on a broad range of things including chiropody, inpatient stays, and complementary health. See a list of commonly covered treatments).

Most people can manage 'normal' heathcare costs, but for many, cash plan schemes can be superbly helpful. Yet they're not always cheaper overall than self-insuring - routinely stashing cash in a dedicated Top Savings Account for use when the need arises.

Do you pay out regularly for optical or dental treatments?

Cash plans usually cover both dentistry, including check-up costs and treatments, and optical treatments such as sight tests, prescription glasses or contact lenses .

If you regularly spend on these, it boosts the value of a cash plan to you, as the payout on these alone roughly matches the annual pay-in. This story should explain.

Dennis Talplan, or Den to his friends, has regular check-ups at the dentist, spending about £40/year. As a glasses wearer, he spends the same amount at the optician. He is signed up to the Paycare cash plan's most basic level, at £5.75 a month.

So, while he's laying out £69 a year for the policy, he's able to reclaim £80, which comes to 116% of his costs. This means he is more than recouping the cost of the plan, so if any further treatment needs spring up he's covered and in profit.

If this situation's like yours, jump to First Timers' Best Buys for the top payers. Cash plans can be a good alternative to getting specific dental insurance, though in some circumstances that can be better too (see Cheap Dental Insurance). Remember you can often save by getting optical products online (see Cut Contact Lens Costs and Glasses Buying guides).

How do they work?

Arrange the treatment, pay the money, then send off a receipt and claim form to reclaim the cash. This does mean if you're not the type of person who'll remember to send off the receipts, don't bother with one of these plans.

Normally there's no need to inform the cash plan provider before having treatment, though this is requested in certain cases. Typically this applies to something like osteopathy, where you'd be required to have a GP or specialist confirm it was treatment for an actual condition.

The nitty-gritty

How can they pay out so much?

The plans sound phenomenal. They cover your costs and for someone having a LOT of treatments, can pay back more than five times what you pay in, year by year. So, how can it all add up?

  • Most people don't claim!

    Just because people can claim, doesn't mean they do. Many people forget to send in their claim forms, so there's no payout at all. Cash plan providers rely on apathetic customers with direct debits dripping from their bank accounts to keep the coffers healthy.

    So bear in mind...

    Cash plans are only great value if you'll make claims. If you won't, they're a complete waste of money.

  • They have strong historic reserves

    Most cash plan providers are non-profit organisations set up before the NHS. These older operators tend to have built up substantial investment portfolios, which ease their finances and allow them to pay more generous benefits. For more on cash plans' mutual status and other similar issues, read the additional notes on an historic boon

The top cash plan policies

Since all cash plan policies have different prices, cover and limits, they are a nightmare to compare. So, to help in the best buys box below, we've based scores on a variety of scenarios. Of course as no one knows their what their claims will be, it's only a rough guide. But it's a good way to highlight the bigger payers.

The score = 'How much you can claim' / 'the annual policy cost'

A policy that pays out £300 and costs £100 a year would score 3.0. Full scoring info

Best buys

The top policies

If you're not sure you'll remember to claim, these first timers' picks focus on cheap plans. So if you forget to claim the loss is small, but it does mean the potential payback is reduced. If it works, then you can always increase the plan level later.

First timers

To find the first timers' top picks, each provider's lowest-priced plan was chosen. Here are the rankings (always check the cover levels suit your needs before buying).

Claim basis: £40 towards each of dental and optical treatment.

gold medal1st place gold medal2nd place bronze medal3rd place
Company: Paycare WHA Medicash
Plan: Direct 1 Personal 145 Level 1
Costs: £5.95 per month
(£71/year)
£6.28 per month
(£75/year)
£6.50 per month
(£78/year)
Annual payout: £80 £80 £80
No-claim period: First 13 weeks First 12 weeks Can claim straight away,
though check individual policies
Score: 1.12 1.06 1.03

Single Adults

The aim here is to find a policy with a range of cover and a good payout rate. Always check the cover levels suit your needs before buying.

Claim basis: We chose a range of treatments - dental, optical, osteopathy and physiotherapy. The price level used was the nearest to £10 a month per adult.

gold medal1st place gold medal2nd place bronze medal3rd place
Company: Medicash Birmingham Hospital Saturday Fund Sovereign
Plan: Level 1 Value (age 17-34s only) Level 2
Costs: £6.50 per month
(£78/year)
£8.95 per month
(£107/year)
£8.84 per month
(£106/year)
Annual payout: £240 £200 £170
No-claim period: Can claim straight away, though check individual policies First 13 weeks Six months for pre-existing conditions
Score: 3.08 1.87 1.6

Single parents with one child

As above, the aim is to find a policy with a range of cover and a good payout rate. Always check the cover levels suit your needs before buying.

Claim basis: We chose a range of treatements - dental, optical, osteopathy and physiotherapy. The price level used was the nearest to £10/month per adult. These providers cover one child at no extra cost.

gold medal1st place gold medal2nd place bronze medal3rd place
Company: Medicash UK Healthcare Westfield
Plan: Level 1 Option 2 Good4You Level 2
Costs: £6.50 per month
(£78/year)
£8.50 per month
(£102/year)
£11.20 per month
(£135/year)
Annual payout: £310 £375 £297
No-claim period: Can claim straight away, though check individual policies First 13 weeks First 12 weeks for most treatments
Score: 3.97 3.38 2.2

Families

Once again, the aim is to find a policy with a range of cover and a good payout rate. Always check the cover levels suit your needs before buying.

Claim basis: We chose a range of treatments - dental, optical, osteopathy and physiotherapy. Family schemes are the top payers overall, with potential returns slightly higher than even the competitive single parent schemes above.

gold medal1st place gold medal2nd place
Company: Medicash Birmingham Hospital Saturday Fund
Plan: Level 1 Value (age 17-34 only)
Costs: £13 per month
(£156/year)
£17.30 per month
(£207/year)
Annual payout: £640 £750
No-claim period: Can claim straight away, though check individual policies First 13 weeks
Score: 4.1 3.6

Older People/Pre-existing conditions

Most of the top-paying healthcare cash plans have a maximum joining age of 64, but if you're older there are still plenty of options:

Joining 65-75 Joining over 75
Company: Sovereign Saga
Plan: Level 2 (various)
Pre-existing condition rules: Optical, dental, podiatry, chiropody covered. Six month waiting period for pre-existing conditions All conditions covered after 2 years' membership

The Saga policy is for over-50s only, but the cost jumps for over-70s. Other policies worth considering for older people are Helpucover for under-74s and UK Heathcare for over-50s.

Pre-existing conditions cover:

If you've a specific pre-existing condition you need to cover you'll pay more. Prices vary widely based on conditions and cover levels, so compare quotes from all of the following to find your best price: Signature Healthcare, Helpucover, Bupa*, Simplyhealth, Saga, Axa.

Our survey of providers was completed in May 2009 (though results tend to change very infrequently). The companies included were: Secure Health, Pinnacle, Westfield, Healthshield, Bupa, Healthsure, Premier Health, WPA, Bolton & District, WHA, Boots, Insure-for-less, Saga, CS Healthcare, Birmingham Hospital Saturday Fund, Halifax, Axa PPP, Standard Life, Paycare, LHF, Medicash, Engage Mutual, Benenden Healthcare, Sovereign and HSF.

Join in the Forum Discussion:
Healthcare Cash Plans
If you haven't already

What the * means above

If a link has a * by it, that means it is an affiliated link and therefore it helps MoneySavingExpert stay free to use, as it is tracked to us. If you go through it, it can sometimes result in a payment to the site. It's worth noting this means the third party used may be named on any credit agreements.

You shouldn’t notice any difference and the link will never negatively impact the product. Plus the editorial line (the things we write) is NEVER impacted by these links. We aim to look at all available products. If it isn't possible to get an affiliate link for the top deal, it is still included in exactly the same way, just with a non-paying link. For more details, read How This Site Is Financed.

Duplicate links of the * links above for the sake of transparency, but this version doesn't help MoneySavingExpert.com: Simplyhealth, Sovereign

Important FCA Note. Referring people to insurers or insurance intermediaries can in some circumstances constitute an FCA regulated activity. MoneySavingExpert.com Limited ("MSE") is part of the MoneySupermarket.com Group PLC ("MSM").

While this does not affect any content on our site, technically it means that pages with links which take you to the sites of insurers or insurance intermediaries are hosted by MSE on behalf of MSM.

MSM is an appointed representative of MoneySupermarket.com Financial Group Limited ("MSFG") which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA FRN: 303190). The registered office address of both MSM and MSFG is MoneySupermarket House, St. David's Park, Ewloe, Chester CH5 3UZ.

Cheap Travel Money

Find the best online rate for holiday cash with MSE's TravelMoneyMax.

Find the best online rate for your holiday cash with MoneySavingExpert's TravelMoneyMax.