Healthcare cash plans

Healthcare cash plans

Claim back dental, optical, physio and other treatment costs

A healthcare cash plan lets you claim back costs of routine dental, optical or physio treatment – with the idea that you claim back more than it costs. We explain how it works, things to watch out for and our top-pick policies.

Who's this guide for? Anyone looking for a policy to claim back routine optical, dental or physio costs. Alternatively, if you're looking for private medical treatment at a time and place that suits, see our Private medical insurance guide.

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What is a healthcare cash plan?

With a healthcare cash plan, if you shell out for NHS or private treatment from the dentist, optician or physio, for example, you send your provider the receipt and it gives you the cash back up to an annual limit (the more you pay, the bigger the limit). Few have heard of these, unless they're a workplace perk, but many should consider them. 

The way they work is you pay upfront for any treatment you need, and the insurer will reimburse you later. Each policy will have limits to the amounts you can get back (usually per condition, per year – for example, £100 annual dental cover), and these are typically linked to the monthly premium you'll pay – the more you pay, the more you can claim back. 

This works differently from private medical insurance, which covers the cost of private medical care should you become unwell, though you could have both. 

What do healthcare cash plans cover?

Healthcare cash plans cover a number of different NHS and private treatments, provided they're carried out by a qualified and registered practitioner. It can vary per policy, but here are some of the most common: 

  • Dental. Visits to the dentist and hygienist (cosmetic treatment is often excluded) 
  • Optical. Eye tests and prescription glasses or contact lenses (disposable contact lenses are not always covered)
  • Physiotherapy, chiropody and osteopathy. Manual therapy and massage, including acupuncture and homeopathy 
  • Childbirth. A one-off payment when a baby is born or legally adopted
  • Hospital inpatient. Cash you can claim if you need to stay in overnight

Though note your plan may not cover the entire cost of every session, as some policies will only pay out a proportion of each claim, for example a 50% per claim rule for physiotherapy. So for a plan with a £150 annual physio limit, you could claim back £20 from a £40 appointment up to seven times a year.  

How and when do I make a healthcare cash plan claim?

Once you've had the treatment, you'll need to complete a claim form and send a copy of the receipt to the provider (most let you do this online). You'll usually need to do this within a certain timeframe, typically within three months of the treatment. After it's verified your claim, you'll normally receive payment as a cheque or directly into your bank account within a few days. 

Should I get a healthcare cash plan?

Any policy is optional, so you'll need to weigh up whether the monthly cost is worth it for you. But here are some key points to consider:

  • If you don't regularly pay for dental check-ups, eye tests, glasses or physio then there's no point. This one is simple: if you don't spend anything anyway, you'll have nothing to claim back. So the cost of a policy is money down the drain.

    Yet with the best cash plans, if you max out the claim amounts on the dental and optical categories, you get back more than the policy cost, so owt else is a bonus. 
  • A cash plan is then only worth considering if you'll likely claim back more than it'll cost you. A good way to estimate this is to tot up how much you currently spend on routine check-ups. If the cost of your chosen policy is less or equal to this, then it's likely you'll be up at the end, with additional cover if you need to claim for any other treatments that are included. 
  • Consider self-insuring. If you're not sure you'll claim more than the cost of a plan, rather than paying a monthly premium to an insurer, instead pay that amount into a top savings account. Should you need any minor treatment or consultations, simply dip into your own insurance fund. Plus you'll keep the cash with interest on top if you don't claim.  
  • Only buy one if you'll claim each and every time – otherwise they're a waste of money. Just because people can claim for the cost of healthcare through a cash plan, 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 their coffers healthy. Cash plans only have value if you'll make claims. If you won't, you're throwing your dosh down the drain. 
  • Check if you're already covered by your employer. If you or a partner is employed, it's always worth checking if your employer(s) offer individual or family cash plans. This can sometimes be a no-cost standard benefit (though you may pay tax on it) or an option you can choose to pay for, often via your payslip.

    Firms' bulk-buying power often means they can negotiate big discounts, so find out the cost and cover, then compare it with our top-pick policies below.

Healthcare cash plan need-to-knows

If you think a healthcare cash plan is right for you, here are our four need-to-knows to understand before opting for a new policy.

  • Most healthcare cash plans don't require a medical if you're under 65. This is a boon, however if you have an existing condition it should be declared. Some policies will exclude all future claims on any past conditions, yet most only exclude conditions suffered in the previous two years.

    Even still, depending on the condition, this doesn't mean you can't get cover – a shoulder injury, for example, wouldn't stop someone claiming for physiotherapy treatment for a knee injury.

  • Many healthcare cash plan schemes have a qualifying period from one to six months (at least 10 months for childbirth claims), before you can start to claim anything. This stops people joining and immediately getting treatment, claiming the money back and then cancelling the policy.

    There are a few policies though that provide immediate cover, including one of our top-pick cash plans

  • You can cover an individual or two adults on a policy and most also let you add up to five dependent children at no extra cost, essentially making them a family plan (see our top-pick policies for families).

    The level of benefits for children will differ from policy to policy – it may be that each child gets their own allowance (for example £100 dental cover per child), there might be a shared allowance between children (£300 dental cover for all children) or they might all share the adult allowance (£500 dental cover for the whole family).

    Some policies won't cover children for certain treatments, so make sure you know what your family's needs are and what's covered. And remember, as most children's treatments are free on the NHS, the amount of cash you can reclaim is limited.

  • When you sign up to a cash plan you'll be given an allowance of money per policy year to claim back to pay for your routine healthcare costs. This is a 'use it or lose it' policy so at the end you won't be able to access it anymore.

    If it ends in June, for example, check your existing cash allowance in April and if you've still got money to claim, book an appointment and claim back the cash.

  • Most cash plans are paid a month in advance, so can usually be cancelled with about 30 days' notice (though do check your policy as it can vary). This gives you the flexibility to switch plans or providers if you find you're not using the policy as expected, or if you've maxed the limits before they reset.

    For example, if your policy has a max £150/year for dental and you've claimed this after six months, there's nothing stopping you from cancelling the policy and taking a new one out with a different provider, or seeing if you can upgrade to a plan with greater limits with your current insurer.

    Just be careful doing this if you're waiting on a claim to be paid out and/or now have existing conditions as these are unlikely to be covered by a new policy. Plus, if the new policy has a qualifying period you would need to wait until that has passed before you can claim again. 

Top-pick healthcare cash plan policies

There are lots of plans available with different cover and limits, so it's important to pick one that's right for you. 

To create our shortlist of top picks, we've analysed a variety of policies and calculated which ones offer the highest potential value (how much each policy could pay out, compared with its cost). We check online reviews before including any policy, however this is no guarantee of good service – if you've used any of these providers, please let us and others know of your experience

Top cash plans for individuals 65 and under – from £7/month

We've listed the limits for dental, optical and physio costs as the key ones, though these policies do have limits for other costs such as a specialist consultation/diagnostic tests – see each policy for full details. Yet always choose the policy that suits your budget with limits to suit your needs (all these providers offer multiple levels of cover, so do click through if the limits below aren't what you're after). 

Provider (plan name) + cost MSE value score Claim limits No-claim period
Basic cover – best for those who'll only claim optical & dental, as premiums are low & a few claims will make them cost-effective 
Hive (Bronze)
Monthly cost: £9.16 (£109.92/year)
2.6

- Dental: £70 per person, per year

- Optical: £70 per person, per year

- Physio: £150 per person, per year

Immediate cover

WHA Direct (PL7)

Monthly cost: £7 (£84/year)

1.8

- Dental: £90 per person over 2 years 

- Optical: £90 per person over 2 years
- Physio: £120 per person over 2 years 

3 months
Policies with higher limits – useful for those with a track record of bigger claims or those who know they'll claim larger amounts back
Sovereign Healthcare (Level 4)
Monthly cost: £24.05 (£288.60/year)
2.8

- Dental: £150 per person, per year

- Optical: £150 per person, per year
- Physio: £500 per person, per year (limited to 50% of each claim)

Immediate cover
UK Heathcare (Everyday Cash Plan Level 3)
Monthly cost:£22.50 (£270/year)
2.4

- Dental: £175 per person, per year

- Optical: £200 per person over 2 years
- Physio: £375 per person, per year (limited to £20/visit)

13 weeks

Correct at 15 March 2022. 

Top cash plans for couples aged 65 and under – from £14/month

Usually if you're in a couple, it's cheapest to buy two individual policies – or some policies will let you add your partner by doubling the cost. So, have a look at the top picks for individuals above.

Top cash plans for families – from £18/month

These are our top picks if you're after cover for yourself, partner and children, with the prices based on two adults and two children. If you're looking for cover for a couple, take a look at the individual cover above as two separate policies can be cheaper. Choose the policy that suits your budget with limits to suit your needs (all these providers offer multiple levels of cover, so do click through if the limits below aren't what you're after). 

Provider (plan name) + cost MSE value score Annual limits, per person (unless stated) No-claim period
Basic cover – best for those who'll only claim optical & dental, as premiums are low & a few claims will make them cost-effective 

UK Healthcare (Everyday Cash Plan Level 2)

Monthly cost: £28.50 (£342/year)

3.3

- Dental: £95 per adult, per year

- Optical: £120 per adult over 2 years

- Physio: £220 per adult, per year (limited to £20/visit)
- Claim limits are 50% of above per child

13 weeks
Hive (Bronze)
Monthly cost: £18.32 (£219.84/year)
2.6

- Dental: £70 per adult, per year

- Optical: £70 per adult, per year
- Physio: £150 per adult, per year
- No additional allowance for children, but claims can be made against the adult limits above

Immediate cover
Policies with higher limits – useful for those with a track record of bigger claims or those who know they'll claim larger amounts back
Sovereign Healthcare (Level 4)
Monthly cost: £48.10 (£577.20/year)
5.5

- Dental: £150 per person, per year

- Optical: £150 per person, per year

- Physio: £500 per person, per year (limited to 

50% of each claim)

Immediate cover

BHSF
(Silver)

Monthly cost: £34 (£408/year)

2.6

- Dental: £125 per adult or all children, per year

- Optical: £125 per adult or all children, per year

- Physio: £100 per adult or all children, per year

13 weeks

Correct at 15 March 2022. Prices based on two adults and two children.

Top cash plans for individuals over 65 – from £7/month

Many cash plans have a maximum joining age of 65, so here we've selected our pick of the top plans that have a higher sign-up age limit. We've listed the limits for dental, optical and physio costs as the key ones, though these policies do have limits for other costs such as a specialist consultation/diagnostic tests – see each policy for full details.

Yet always choose the policy that suits your budget with limits to suit your needs (all these providers offer multiple levels of cover, so do click through if the limits below aren't what you're after). 

Provider (plan name) + cost MSE value score Max sign-up age  Claim limits No-claim period
Basic cover – best for those who'll only claim optical & dental, as premiums are low & a few claims will make them cost-effective 
UK Healthcare (Over-50s' Cash Plan Level 2)
Monthly cost: £11.75 (£141/year)
3.6 No max - Dental: £60 per person, per year
- Optical: £100 per person, per year
- Physio: £350 per person, per year (max £20/visit)
13 weeks
Hive (Bronze)
Monthly cost: £9.16 (£109.92/year)
2.6 69

- Dental: £70 per person, per year

- Optical: £70 per person, per year
- Physio: £150 per person, per year

Immediate cover
WHA Direct (PL7)
Monthly cost: £7 (£84/year)
1.8 69

- Dental: £90 per person over 2 years

- Optical: £90 per person over 2 years

- Physio: £120 per person over 2 years
3 months
Policies with higher limits – useful for those with a track record of bigger claims or those who know they'll claim larger amounts back
HSF (Scheme V4)
Monthly cost: £31 (£372/year)
2.3 70 - Dental: £200 per person, per year
- Optical: £220 per person, per year
- Physio: £450 per person, per year
3 months
SimplyHealth (Level 2)
Monthly cost: £20

(£240/year)

1.5 79

- Dental: £100 per person, per year

- Optical: £100 per person, per year

- Physio: £150 per person, per year
Immediate cover

Correct at 15 March 2022. 

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How to complain about your cash plan provider

The insurance industry doesn't have the best customer-service reputation and while a provider may be good for some, it can be hell for others.

Common problems include claims either not being paid out on time or at all, unfair charges, or exclusions being hidden in small print. 

It's always worth trying to call your provider first, but, if not, then you can use free complaints tool Resolver. The tool helps you manage your complaint, and if the company doesn't play ball, it also helps you escalate your complaint to the free Financial Ombudsman Service.

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