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What is the Best Private Health Insurance 2023?

You're busy so we've done the research for you! Here is our list of the UK's top health insurance providers for 2023

A photo of Daniel Sharpe-Szunko, the author

By Daniel Sharpe-Szunko

Published on: 21 September 2023

12 min read

What is the Best Private Health Insurance 2023?

Research is key to finding the best insurance policies, but people with busy lives and other things to think about often don’t have the time. This is why we’ve done the research for you!

We’ve dived deep into the world of health insurance and providers to work out which health insurance comes out on top for 2023. There are some brilliant options for health insurance and we’re explaining more about what they are and how they work.

Here at MPO, we’re constantly looking at the health insurance policies available in the UK and who is offering best value for money to consumers. We then relay this information to you to help you work out the most affordable options to look after your health.

What is health insurance?

Private health insurance or ‘private medical insurance’ is designed to cover the costs if you get sick or are injured. These policies will cover some or all of the cost of private medical care, so you don’t get trapped in an NHS waiting list for weeks or months before being seen.

Private health insurance covers you for things such as diagnostic tests, hospital fees and private rooms. You can usually add on optional extras such as enhanced mental health cover, outpatient care and more.

Insurance providers are constantly battling to be the best and offer the most innovate policies. This works out well for consumers as it means they’re always reworking policies to offer better value for money – and will include attractive benefits as an added bonus.

You can end up with some great add ons from certain providers including discounted gym memberships, FREE cinema tickets or even a big discount on the smart watch you’ve had your eye on.

There are several types of health insurance available including:

  • Individual health insurance
  • Family health insurance
  • Business health insurance

It’s easy to imagine that health insurance is a lot like life insurance as it protects your wellbeing and finances. The truth is that health insurance is far more like policies such as car or home insurance.

You will need to renew your policy every year (most of the time*) and will usually need to pay a set amount towards your claim pay out (excess). Health insurance isn’t there to replace the NHS, it’s designed to work alongside the treatment that is already available.

Most of the time chronic (long term) medical conditions won’t be covered. The policies will instead provide cover for acute (curable) conditions such as a heart attack or back pain.

To claim on your policy, you will just need to:

  1. Go to your doctor and get a referral for a specialist
  2. Contact your health insurance provider
  3. Select a specialist for your treatment from a hospital list or from your insurer’s suggestions (guided option)
  4. Make an appointment for your treatment
  5. Your insurer will take care of the bill (they contact the health care provider directly, so you won’t need to do anything)
  6. Contact your insurer again (if you need follow up consultations or treatment).

Which are the top health insurance companies in the UK?

Here’s our official MPO ranking of which insurance providers are offering the best health insurance policies this year. This is our opinion based on factors like:

  • Their customer service record
  • How easy their complaints process is
  • How many claims they pay out for (average)
  • Independent customer reviews
  • How much information is available on their website
  • Built in features of their products
  • Extra benefits on offer

1. Aviva

Aviva has taken the number 1 spot this year for UK health insurance policies. This isn’t too surprising as Aviva is the UK’s largest insurance provider and has millions of customers across the UK (around 18 million).

In fact, their sales for health insurance jumped by 25% this year as more people turned to private health care due to issues with NHS waiting times.

Their ‘Healthier Solutions’ policies are priced reasonably and are competitive compared to other insurers. There are hundreds of hospitals available for private medical treatment including Nuffield, Spire and NHS Private hospitals. This gives you a huge range of choices when you need treatment and means you’re less likely to have to travel long distances for the treatment you need.

Aviva facts & stats

TrustPilot score – 4.1 out of 5.0 stars (rated Excellent)

Defaqto rating – 5 stars

What is good about Aviva health insurance?

There are a lot of good things about Aviva Healthier Solutions products. Here’s some of the reasons people chose Aviva health insurance this year.

  • They include cover for cancer care and treatment completely FREE
  • You can save the more people you add to your policy (multi person discount)
  • High level of cover for acute medical conditions
  • 24/7 Digital GP access if you don’t have time to visit your own doctor (via the Aviva Health app)
  • FREE cover for your youngest child if you add 2 or more children (as long as they are younger than 19 years old)
  • Strong choice for younger customers and families

Are there any cons we should know about?

While Aviva is top of the rankings, there are still some important things you should know. There are 3 main cons to Aviva health insurance which are:

  1. You can’t add on overseas cover (other insurers will let you add this to your policy for an extra cost)
  2. The dental cover is really limited (you can’t be covered for more than £250 AND this doesn’t include your excess)
  3. You’re given a limited hospital list by default (Expert Select), which isn’t ideal if you want a bigger range of specialists to choose from. You can upgrade to include more hospitals – but it will cost you to do this.
  4. No cover for pre-existing medical conditions (this isn’t specific to Aviva as health insurance generally doesn’t cover this no matter what provider you choose)

2. Bupa

Bupa is one of the World’s biggest and best-known healthcare providers and are a firm favourite with UK customers. They’ve got a great reputation and can provide an extremely high level of cover. They’re a popular choice with older customers in particular but work well for most people.

Bupa is also the only UK provider to offer direct cancer support, without needing to talk to your own doctor first. This along with their newer enhanced mental health cover (included automatically), cash benefits and standard list of 200+ hospitals cements their spot as number 2 in our rankings.

Bupa facts & stats

TrustPilot score – 4.0 out of 5.0 stars

Defaqto rating – 5 stars

What is good about Bupa health insurance?

Bupa has been reworking their policies lately, introducing a brand-new Bupa Family+ policy to help give UK families peace of mind. Other reasons people often choose Bupa for health insurance include:

  • Automatic cover for mental health treatment and care (inpatient and outpatient)
  • Bupa guarantees you will pay 10% less for family cover compared to separate policies
  • Direct access to Bupa cancer treatment referral with no need to speak to your own GP (useful if you are struggling to get an appointment or want to be seen immediately)
  • Choice of 3 hospital lists to suit different budgets (and the cheapest list will still cover you for care in over 200 UK hospitals)
  • No age limits for policies (many insurers won’t cover you for healthcare above age 85)
  • Great options for benefits that you can add for a higher level of cover (e.g. therapies cover, enhanced outpatient cover)

Are there any cons we should know about?

Bupa health insurance sounds great… so what’s the catch? The reason Bupa doesn’t take the number 1 spot on our list is because there are a few more cons to their cover compared to Aviva.

  1. They don’t protect your No Claims Discount (Aviva does)
  2. Can cost more than Aviva policies
  3. You can’t choose specialists and hospitals for cancer treatment that Bupa doesn’t recommend
  4. They don’t cover pre-existing medical conditions (though this is the same for most providers)
  5. You can’t claim for treatment with non Bupa approved consultants and can only claim for care in private medical facilities

3. Vitality Health

At number 3 in this year’s rankings, we have Vitality Health. Vitality is a newer provider but one that has had a huge impact since they launched in the UK market. We’re hugely impressed by the innovate way they view insurance policies – and if you want extra benefits, you’re in the right place.

Vitality has some of the most comprehensive awards that we’ve ever seen from insurance providers. They reward their members for improvements to health and lifestyle e.g. exercising more which can be logged on the Vitality app.

This equals points which allow you to claim great rewards like:

Vitality facts & stats

TrustPilot score – 3.9 out of 5.0 stars

Defaqto rating – 5 stars

What is good about Vitality health insurance?

We could talk all day about the many discounts and rewards that Vitality offer (often you save more in discounts than you pay per month for your policy!). There are some other reasons that customers choose Vitality for health insurance:

  • FREE annual health screening for Vitality customers
  • Includes comprehensive cancer treatment as standard
  • Guaranteed full cover (Vitality pays all hospital fees and costs for consultations and anaesthetic if you are admitted to hospital)
  • Online virtual GP access is available 24/7
  • Includes cover for mental health, menopause and more at no extra cost
  • Offers a 10% discount for new customers with no medical conditions or treatment within the last 3 years
  • Good option for people with medical conditions and smokers

Are there any cons we should know about?

Vitality’s biggest draw is their long list of rewards and benefits – but this is also their biggest downfall in some ways. Vitality is designed to work best for customers who engage with the app and earning points, which can lead to higher costs for those who aren’t interested in doing this.

Other cons are:

  1. Vitality Rewards are often confusing. New customers who aren’t familiar with how Vitality works can be put off because they have no idea how to earn points or how the rewards system works.
  2. Can be more expensive compared to other providers (though the rewards usually help to balance out the higher price)
  3. They don’t cover you for pre-existing conditions (a common theme on this list, as most insurance providers won’t cover this)

4. The Exeter

The Exeter isn’t a household name compared to other providers on this list. They are however a solid option for people who have medical conditions (possibly the best choice). They have more specialist products which can work better for someone with a long-term condition like diabetes or MS.

The comprehensive core cover included in The Exeter’s Health+ policies help them to stand out from other insurance providers. There is no doubt that their policies are probably the most flexible that are currently available, allowing you to custom build your policy so it works for what you need.

With their flexible cover and wide range of additional benefits, it made sense to place The Exeter at number 4 in our rankings for 2023.

The Exeter facts & stats

TrustPilot score – 4.4 out of 5.0 stars

Defaqto rating – 5 stars

What is good about the Exeter health insurance?

The Exeter includes a good range of benefits as standard with discounts available for families and couples. Other reasons people choose The Exeter health insurance include:

  • Outpatient surgery is included as a core benefit (many providers charge extra for this)
  • Choice of excess amounts (£0 – £5,000)
  • High level of core cover for health insurance customers
  • Protected no claims discount or community rated scheme
  • Wide range of add ons including therapies cover and mental health cover
  • Good level of core cancer cover
  • Good option for people with medical conditions and smokers

Are there any cons we should know about?

There are a few issues with The Exeter which is why they don’t place higher on this list. These aren’t major problems though and The Exeter does still offer a good level of cover.

  1. There is no option to add dental cover to your policy, unlike other insurers like Bupa
  2. You can’t add travel cover to your policy, so you would need a separate travel insurance policy to cover the costs of medical treatment when abroad
  3. There can be exclusions (reasons you can’t claim) included in the policy terms and conditions. Always read these carefully as this helps you understand exactly what you are covered for.

5. AXA Health

Though AXA Health is last on this list, it doesn’t mean they are ‘worst’. They still have a strong level of core cover and benefits which is why they are included in our top 5 for 2023.

There are millions of AXA customers in the UK and you are probably familiar with the name even if you don’t have a policy yourself. AXA Health is a separate part of the business that specialises in health insurance policies.

AXA Health gives you access to more than 34,000 specialists across the UK including care in top rated London private hospitals like Harley Street and The Portland. This along with NHS cash benefits, unlimited outpatient surgery options and more is why we think AXA is one of this year’s top providers.

AXA Health facts & stats

TrustPilot score – 4.1 out of 5.0 stars

Defaqto score – 5 stars

What is good about AXA health insurance?

AXA is probably one of the best options available for health insurance for younger customers and families. They offer a range of benefits including:

  • Includes highly rated cancer cover and cardiovascular cover
  • Automatically includes comprehensive outpatient cover (is added at an extra cost with many other providers)
  • Choice of treatment in 250+ UK hospitals (core cover)
  • Brilliant option for No Claims Discount (possibly strongest on the market)
  • FastTrack diagnostic appointments option for outpatients
  • AXA Health at Hand app gives you access to 24/7 healthcare support
  • You can get helpful phone support from qualified nurses about health concerns

Are there any cons we should know about?

There is a reason that AXA doesn’t score top on this list and it’s important to be aware of the cons too before you buy any insurance policy.

  1. Outpatient cover isn’t included free (you will need to pay extra to add this)
  2. You’re automatically put onto the guided option for hospitals (you get given a short list of suggestions rather than choosing from a full hospital list)
  3. If you want the non-guided option, you will have to pay more for this

Even though we have ranked some of the UK’s top health insurance providers on this page, we’re not telling you who to choose. We assess factors like available benefits and value for money to let you know more about the options available.

Before you decide on your health insurance provider, you will need to think about your own life and situation. Consider your lifestyle, if you want family or individual cover and more to work out which provider could be the right choice for you.

Health insurance provider need-to-knows

1. All insurers offer something slightly different

Don’t make the mistake of trying to compare all of the policy features directly. There are a lot of different options and the benefits offered can vary massively.

We will openly admit that one of the worst things about health insurance is that there are so many different choices. Policies are so flexible that the policy you end up with might be completely different to the standard one described on the website.

This makes it harder to compare the prices available from different providers. If you’re struggling, it can be helpful to ask for advice from a health insurance specialist who has experience in this area.

2. Checking the reviews can help you narrow down your choices

This might seem obvious yet it’s something that people don’t always do until it’s too late. Look at review websites like TrustPilot or Feefo to get a feel for how the provider does in terms of customer service.

If there are a lot of negative reviews, this can be a red flag that’s worth paying attention to. It’s better to do the research ahead of time rather than getting stuck with a policy you’re not happy with and then finding there are a lot of other customers in the same boat.

3. Cost isn’t always the main thing to worry about

We get that cost is always going to be something that people are concerned about when they buy a new insurance policy. No one wants to end up paying way more than is necessary when they could have gotten a better deal.

How to complain about your health insurance

It’s definitely not unreasonable to complain about insurance policies, especially if you feel you have been ripped off or mis sold.

You always have the right to complain, and insurers actually expect that sometimes people will. This means that they will have set policies and procedures in place to make this process as smooth as possible.

Your best first move will be to check your insurance providers website. Most of the time they will have a page specifically about complaints which will include all the details you need to get in touch with their complaints team.

Usually:

  • Insurers aim to resolve complaints as quickly as they can (the last thing they want is bad customer feedback)
  • Most providers will respond within a few days (normally 3 or 5 working days)
  • Generally, they will aim for 8 weeks as a maximum time scale for dealing with a complaint

This might solve your problem or it might not. If you’re still unhappy with your provider, you can contact the Financial Ombudsman Service for advice and support. They are an organisation specifically designed to help resolve issues between consumers and financial services businesses.

Financial ombudsman service contact details

Here is how you can get in touch with the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).

Tel. 0800 023 4567 or 0300 123 9123

Email – complaint.info@financialombudsman.org.uk

It can be a tricky to work out which health insurance provider or policy is the right choice. There are loads of options and they’re all a bit different which means it’s not always easy to compare them like for like.

What we would suggest is:

  1. Think about what you’re after – if you need a business health insurance policy for example, some providers will be better with this type of policy. It’s also a good idea to consider what benefits are important to you and how much you can afford to spend.
  2. Do your research – this is something we’re always saying, but this can make all the difference in ending up with the right policy or the wrong one. After you have worked out what you want, spend some time looking at what policies are on offer and which providers are offering the best prices.
  3. Let the experts handle it for you – if you are short on time or don’t want the hassle of sorting things yourself, you can speak to a health insurance specialist. They will be able to look at the type of policy you need and quickly compare policies for you, so you don’t have to.

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