Compare over 50’s private medical insurance.

Be Policyclever – read our comprehensive guide to getting the best private health cover in the UK and internationally.

Find out how private medical insurance policies work, what these policies cover (and don’t cover) and find providers that can cover you whether you’re under 50, over 55 or have any pre-existing medical conditions.

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Why should you choose private medical insurance?

  • Avoid lengthy waiting periods to get urgent treatment quickly.

  • Have better choices over the location of your treatment and the specialist or consultant who delivers your treatment.

  • Get ambulance cover or private transportation included to ease your journey to and from your hospital room.

  • Private hospitals have access to newly developed drugs and therapies which may not otherwise be available via the NHS.

  • Private hospitals normally have superior facilities, e.g. private, en-suite rooms and round-the-clock visiting hours.

  • Having private health insurance is an important and cost effective method of protecting against unexpected health issues and providing you with more control over your health care, choice of services and choice of doctor. Private health insurance puts you first.

  • Some NHS trusts have been accused of “rationing” patient care by simply closing their waiting lists to avoid being  fined for keeping patients waiting for treatment for too long.

  • Treatment is all paid for by your insurer (less any excess) meaning you’re not having to find financing in a difficult period.

What is private health insurance?

A rapidly growing number of people who live in the UK have a PMI (private medical insurance) policy.

Private health cover pays for treatment in a private hospital if you become ill. You pay a variable excess, but the treatment is otherwise covered by your policy.

PMI pays for treatment of  “acute” conditions in a private hospital, as well as some types of elective surgery or medical tests.

All products offer a core cover , which offers in- and day-patient treatments. Additionally some give “full Cancer Cover”, and can cover MRI, CT and PET scans and pregnancy complications.

This guide explains everything you need to know about PMI / private medical cover: how it works and what types of pre-existing medical conditions are covered, and finally – how to get a quote that is right for you and your family.

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What does private health cover include?

What categories of illness are covered very much depends on the medical cover provider, but there always universal features included in most insurance policies. When you’re comparing policies, always read the terms and conditions of your policy and ask questions if you’re not sure about anything.

  • Inpatient treatment.

    Almost all policies make provisions for the costs associated with inpatient treatment (for example, if you were to need to stay overnight or for the day in a hospital bed). This usually included tests and any required surgery.

  • Outpatient treatment.

    Outpatient treatment is when you might need to visit a specialist consultant or have medical tests. Outpatient treatment is usually covered under most policies but the amount you’re able to claim for may be limited. If the price of the policy is lower, there may fewer types of outpatient treatment covered. Claim limits might be lower too.

  • Hospital accommodation and nursing care.

    Hospital stays and limited on site nursing day care is usually included in most health insurance policies.

  • The latest drugs on offer from international Pharmaceuticals.

    Not all drugs are available on the NHS, largely due to funding concerns (some therapies can cost the NHS as much as £100,000 per patient, per year). If the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence have approved the drug, the chances are you can get access to them privately.

  • Extra cover.

    Psychiatric and mental health treatment availability can be different depending on the individual insurer. Health insurance policies may include psychiatric treatment, but not all of them do. This is a difficult area for providers as it blurs the line between curable illness and long-term care (which isn’t covered in typical policies).

    Complementary therapies are available via some providers, as are private ambulance services. You can also receive a home nurse, support via 24-hour advice lines, and support with overnight parental accommodation if your child is in hospital. Comprehensive medical policies are more likely to cover these areas.

What does private health exclude?

  • Some pre-existing medical conditions

    Private medical insurance is easier to get if you’re healthy and, it’s cheaper if you’re young. Almost all insurers exclude preexisting medical conditions.

    Of course private health insurance is available to those with pre-existing of medical illnesses, it just might be more difficult or more costly to get the cover you need.

  •  Longer-term conditions might not be covered unless you talk with your insurer specifically about that issue.

    Unless already agreed, your PMI policy might not pay for long term treatments including dialysis, or pre-existing medical illnesses such as asthma.

  • Other conditions can be excluded:

    If you have a history of drug abuse, you’re currently pregnant, you’ve had an organ transplant, you’re infertile, you may be excluded from a policy unless you’re completely open about your medical history.

Getting The Best Cover

If you want to get you or your family the best cover possible, you’ll need to compare a number of key factors in your decision including:

  • The Insurance provider

Does the insurance provider have a good reputation? Can you find evidence of the quality of their service online? Do they have good customer reviews? How is their claims process?

  • The level of inpatient and day-patient cover

What level of cover is provided when you’re admitted into hospital for an overnight stay? Sometimes minor procedures are carried out on a day patient basis, where you occupy a hospital bed for a short period but leave the same day of the procedure.

  • Outpatient cover

What level of cover is provided for post operative or new patient consultations, diagnostics or treatment where no hospital bed is required (for example: blood tests, x-rays, MRI scans and so on), starting with a referral from your GP. If necessary, the hospital may then refer you for inpatient treatment, such as surgery.

  • Additional Benefits

The level of cover provided for therapies such as physiotherapy, osteopathy or chiropractic treatment. Is mental health, dental and optical treatment included too?

  • Medical Underwriting

What method is used to underwrite your policy? How is your current health assessed as this defines what you can and cannot claim for. The most common forms of underwriting for an individual health insurance policy include moratorium and full medical underwriting.

Where almost all PMI covers inpatient treatment in full, the extent of the cover provided tends to be broken down by outpatient treatment with the best policies providing full outpatient cover.

  • Basic Cover

Tends to cover some, little or no outpatient treatment

  • Mid Range Plan

Will cover outpatient treatment up to a claim limit often set at either £500, £1,000 or £1,500 per year.

  • Comprehensive Health Insurance

Designed to cover outpatient treatment in full.

What are the types of cover?

There are two main types of private medical policy with additional specialist policies available on the market, too. You can have a “fully underwritten” or a “moratorium” policy.

  • Fully underwritten policies

    If you choose to sign up for “fully underwritten” PMI cover, you allow your insurance provider to access your full medical history.

  • Moratorium policies

    With a moratorium plan, you’re only required to provide minimal information in the application process.

    Fully underwritten plans are usually cheaper than moratorium plans because your insurer already knows your medical history and therefore which pre-existing conditions you’re covered and not covered for.

  • Specialist policies

    Some insurance companies also offer specialist policies. Specialist policies cover particular situations that might occur, for example an NHS treatment with a waiting list of longer than 6 weeks.

    Some policies are designed specifically for people aged over 55, accommodate pre-exiting medical conditions or may have a focus on one disease in particular, for example, cancer treatment. Some are designed to cover people with dangerous occupations.

  • Full Cancer cover

    Data collected by Cancer Research shows that around 320,500 people were diagnosed with cancer in the UK in 2009, about 519 cases for every 100,000 people in the UK. The most common cancers are: breast, lung, bowel and prostate.

What providers do we feature?

We feature a broad range of health insurers including Freedom Health Insurance, Bupa, Aviva, Vitality Health and Saga to make sure we can best suit your needs.

Bupa private health insurance cover

Getting private hospital treatment vs the NHS

We’re lucky enough to have the National Health Service, which has provided free healthcare to citizens of the UK for nearly a century. Private health is not certainly has its strength, but NHS treatment is the best in the world and should be celebrated as a remarkable achievement.

When we surveyed Policyclever customers who’ had recently undergone procedures at a hospital within the past few years, we found that those who had used the NHS were usually always just as satisfied with the experience they’d had and the effectiveness of the treatment as those who’d gone via the private care route.

For those that did use a private health service, most mentioned the reduced wait time as their main motivation for doing so.

Private hospitals tend to face less demand and, as businesses themselves can usually deliver treatments in far less time than their NHS counterparts

Having access to a private healthcare service can be expensive, though. Getting private health insurance is, therefore, a means to getting faster care at a fraction of the cost (the insurance premium, plus the excess).

On that basis we compiled some information to look at the cost of getting treated privately vs getting treated on the NHS in terms of waiting list time and the type of treatment you need.

 Comparing the cost of private treatment vs wait times on the NHS

Treatment Cost of private treatment Average wait time on NHS
CT scan Up to £870 2.2 weeks
MRI scan Up to £1,298 2.6 weeks
Cataract surgery £2,140 2.4 weeks
Skin lesion removal £940 6.5 weeks
Knee replacement £11,814 13.5 weeks
Hip replacement £10,776 13.5 weeks

Key features: Cancer Cover and what to look out for in your PMI.

Cancer cover is a key part of many comprehensive private medical insurance policies.

While you should always be clear that you understand your own policy fully, most PMI policies will cover:

  • Any emergency surgery needed, for example a tumour removal.
  • Chemotherapy and radiotherapy to help you beat cancer into remission.
  • Drug therapies including new drugs if there has been adequate evidence of their effectiveness.
  • Hormonal and biological therapy if prescribed, for example monoclonal antibodies such as Herceptin.
  • After care: Follow-up consultations and ongoing monitoring once treatment has been administered.
  • Further coverage and treatment if your cancer comes back furtehr down the road.
  • Look out for additional benefits, too – such as hospice car and cover for loved ones travel and accomodation expenses.

Always check, in detail, what is and is not covered in your policy. 

Which are the best medical health insurance companies?

In recent years there has many of the larger providers have been buying up smaller ones to consolidate their place in the market.

This has left us with a handful of well known, large household names to choose from as well as a few lesser known (but excetionally good) specialist companies:

Freedom Health Insurance provides private medical insurance for individuals, families and businesses across the UK and internationally.

Private health insurance from Bupa UK gives you the choice and flexibility to adapt your plan to your needs.

AXA PPP healthcare offer a range of health insurance policies for individuals and businesses.

The Exeter are an award winning healthcare insurer, find out what makes our plans different.

Choose from Aviva’s range of Private Health, Cancer or Physiotherapy Insurance.

General and Medical Healthcare provide private health insurance and cover for personal family, business, travel and pre-existing medical conditions.

Health Insurance Policy Comparison

Much like any other type of insurance policy, the costs associated with PMI cover vary depending on your circumstances and the features of the cover you’ve bought.

Also, where you live has a dramatic effect on costs of treatment. For example, including London hospital treatment will increase your premium fees.

Premiums also increase with age. We’ve looked at the general increase in cost based on your age below.

On average, customers under 65 reported paying approximately £1,200 a year. For those aged 65 and over, the premiums could increase by 40% to 50% to around £2,000 per person on average.

The figures below are based on illustrative quotes for two couples (one couple, aged 35 and the other, over 55) would potentially pay per year if they applied for cover for surgery, heart and cancer cover and also cover for therapies (such as physiotherapy, acupuncture, chiropractic treatment or osteopathy).

Click “Quote” to get a quote from one of our recomended providers, or scroll down to read more information on individual policies.

Policy Name
35 Year Old Couple
55 Year Old Couple

Freedom Health Insurance

Your Choice, Elite or Worldwide Cover




Limited Cover with Other Treatments & Therapies




Core Cover with Therapies




Treatment & Care with Full Cancer Cover



CS Healthcare

Essential with Heart & Cancer and Therapy



The Exeter

Heath+ with Therapies cover




Saver Plus with Extended Cancer Cover

Over 50’s only


How much does health insurance cover cost?

Much like any other type of insurance policy, the costs associated with PMI cover vary depending on your circumstances and the features of the cover you’ve bought.

Also, where you live has a dramatic effect on costs of treatment. For example, including London hospital treatment will increase your premium fees.

Premiums also increase with age. We’ve looked at the general increase in cost based on your age below.

On average, customers under 65 reported paying approximately £1,200 a year. For those aged 65 and over, the premiums could increase by 40% to 50% to around £2,000 per person on average.

The figures below are based on illustrative quotes for two couples (one couple, aged 35 and the other, over 55) would potentially pay per year if they applied for cover for surgery, heart and cancer cover and also cover for therapies (such as physiotherapy, acupuncture, chiropractic treatment or osteopathy).

CS Healthcare
The Exeter

Policy features: comparing Freedom Health vs Aviva vs AXA PPP vs Bupa vs CS Healthcare vs The Exeter vs Saga

What do different private medical insurers offer? Take a look at our handy policy information below; and for further information, click “get a quote” for pricing tailored to you.

Policy features: Freedom Health Insurance

Taking a closer look at Freedom Health Insurance’s range of plans from “Your Choice” (the starter option) to “Elite” and “Worldwide” an international health cover policy suitable for British expats living abroad.

Freedom Health Insurance is a multi-award winning health insurer. Offering, in our opinion one of the best PMI products available today.

Freedom’s policies are designed for all levels of cover at varying levels of budget. Their standard cover is called “Your Choice” and includes cancer cover and in-patient annual benefit, other healthcare options can be added to suit your unique health needs. Their “Elite” cover essentially adds all available options to give a very premium level of cover.

At a slightly higher budget level, the “Worldwide” health insurance policy offers people who are studying, living, working or travelling abroad full private health cover should it be needed. We currently recommend that British people travelling to the EU should make sure their travel insurance covers them while they’re away, but if you’re a British expat living in the EU, you should look at health insurance options too.

  • Wide range of cover with three plans.

    Freedom’s Your Choice, Elite and Worldwide Cover policies all cover inpatient and outpatient surgery.

  • Cancer cover.

    Cancer cover is included with all Freedom Health Insurance policies.

  • Cash lump sum for NHS treatment.

    If you decide to get treated on the NHS you will receive a cash lump sum.

  • Psychiatric cover.

    Freedom Your Choice can cover psychiatric conditions including both in-patient and out-patient treatment.

Policy features: Bupa Global

Taking a closer look at Bupa Global’s premium international private medical insurance.

Bupa private health insurance cover

Bupa Global is one of the world’s largest international health insurers. As well as providing the freedom to choose where in the world you receive treatment (within your area of cover).

As a Bupa Global customer, depending on the plan you choose, they also offer you:

  • Access to 1.3m medical providers worldwide.

    Access to almost 1.3m medical providers worldwide, and we settle directly with most, so you don’t have to pay up front for your treatment.

  • Cover home or away.

    The same level of cover wherever you might be, home or away, within your area of cover.

  • Access to leading specialists.

    The reassurance of a second opinion from leading specialists, helping you to get the care you need.

  • Multi-lingual support.

    Help, support and advice on the phone from our multilingual in-house medical experts whenever you need it.

  • Access your policy details online.

    Access to your policy details and online claim submissions with our Membersworld website.

  • Cover from £1m.

    Annual cover limits starting from £1m with cover for cancer treatment available.

Policy features: AXA PPP

Taking a closer look at AXA PPP’s Personal Health policies.

AXA PPP private health insurance

AXA PPP Healthcare offer personal, small business and corporate healthcare plans.

AXA PPP’s approach is to assist their customers with their health from the beginning. As they put it, “the more you know about your body and how you can look after it, the healthier you are”.

Get the tools and knowledge you need to take care of yourself via their personal, small company / SME and corporate PMI health policies.

  • Personal Health Policy.

    AXA PPP’s Personal Health Policy offers as standard inpatient treatment, including comprehensive cancer care – alongside outpatient surgery, tests, and scans.

  • Tailor your policy.

    You can tailor to increase the range of outpatient cover available and other extras, and add in a six week waiting period.

  • Scale back types of support to reduce your health insurance premium.

    Scale back the policy’s cancer cover to ‘NHS Cancer Support’ to reduce the cost of your premium. With ‘NHS Cancer Support’, AXA doesn’t pay for cancer treatment unless it’s for licensed cancer drugs that aren’t available through the NHS.

Policy features: The Exeter

Taking a closer look at The Exeter’s Health+ health insurance policy.

Compare the Exeter private health insurance

The Exeter is a different kind of health insurance provider offering private health insurance combined income protection insurance and life cover.

Their new service for members, HealthWise, gives customers of The Exeter free and fast access to medical advice when they need it via smartphone, laptop or tablet.

  • Standard unlimited cancer cover.

    Receive unlimited cancer cover, in-patient and day-patient treatment and outpatient surgery and scans.

  • Flexible features.

    A extra outpatient cover, include or exclude therapies, and include mental health cover.

  • Choice of pricing structure.

    Choose the pricing structure best for you: no claims discount or ‘community rated’.

Policy features: Saga

Taking a closer look at Saga’s range of plans from “Super” (the most comprehensive option) to “Saver” and “Support”. Saga provides policies for people aged over 50.

Saga Health Insurance offers a choice of five health plans, each providing cover for hospital in-patient and day-patient treatment and care.

The offer 30 years’ experience of providing fast access to diagnosis and private treatment for the over 50s only.

  • Wide range of cover with five plans.

    Saga’s offer a range of policies from “Super”, to “Secure” and “Saver Plus”.

    Their policies all offer cover for inpatient and outpatient surgeries. Also available are chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgical cancer treatment.

    Outpatient treatments including scans and therapies are available too, with some limits in place depending on the policy product.

  • Flexible features.

    Tailor and improve your policy to cover additional illnesses, and add cash benefits for everyday health costs. You can extend the level of cancer cover so as to fund treatment of drugs not otherwise available through the NHS.


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