Bupa is the largest healthcare insurer but is bigger better?

As the worlds leading medical insurance provider it’s no surprise that for many, the first name that comes to mind when thinking of private treatment is Bupa. Insuring over 10 million people across the globe the company has a considerable following, and excellent customer retention rates show they must be doing something right. With no shareholders to please Bupa says this means health can be put before profit, and a proportion of company revenue is ploughed back into ground breaking medical research projects.

Bupa has 60 years of experience in the medical insurance sector and in this time they’ve developed one of the most reputable customer service teams around. They’re the only insurer in the UK to make specialist treatment centres available to members, and they also allow wider access to expensive drugs unavailable on the NHS than any other insurer. As these benefits have only been made possible by the sheer size and purchasing power of Bupa, it’s understandable that they’ve carved out a reputation for excellence in the healthcare sector.

Types of policies

  • Individual – There are different levels of cover available for individuals. The most basic is Prompt Diagnosis, which will cover you for a speedy diagnosis, after which your treatment is obtained from the NHS. Cancer cover is available for a full range of oncology treatments, and finally Comprehensive covers all costs from diagnosis to treatment and after care. The level of cover you choose depends on the price you pay.

  • Company – Bupa covers businesses of all sizes from small local set ups with only a few staff to large multi national companies. Corporate cover is particularly extensive with cover available for home nursing, a benefit few other insurers include.

  • International – Bupa offer an extensive range of international options from short range cover for a temporary stay, to long term cover.


  • Specialist support teams – Bupa are dedicated to offering emotional support as well as medical treatment. They understand the difficulties people face when confronted with a new diagnosis or course of treatment, and attempt to support their policyholders through this.

  • Specialist treatment centres – Access to a network of state of the art medical centres specialising in particular forms of cancer. The latest technological innovations are available, so you know everything is being done to assist in your recovery.

  • 24hr helpline – A free helpline is available which is staffed by fully qualified nurses for any pressing medical concerns.

  • One of top 3 companies in the UK for customer service – Bupa has a reputation for fantastic customer service, a recent study placed them in the top 3 companies in the country. Dedicated teams are available for handling cancer claims.

  • Bupa cancer promise – Bupa has made a pledge to all its customers to provide no financial or time limits on cancer treatment, and to offer access to state of the art drugs which are unavailable on the NHS. All policyholders undergoing cancer treatment are given access to a dedicated oncology nurse or adviser throughout their claim for support and counselling.


  • Open referral scheme – Bupa has been criticised by some for its open referral scheme, which operates when customers come to them without a referral to a named specialist by their GP. Rather than giving individuals the option of choosing their own specialist, Bupa will choose one that works within their fee guidelines. This has led to criticism that specialists are being chosen for policyholders based on price and not by skill. However, it is the customer who has the final say in which specialist they use.

  • Premium increases – Policyholders complain of regular premium increases which go beyond those applied by most insurance providers. This can mean after a few years that a once affordable policy is unmaintainable.

  • Shortfalls – As with other insurers Bupa has fee guidelines for specialists. If the specialist charges above and beyond these charges then you could find yourself left with a shortfall. These can be considerable in the case of top London specialists.

Bupa is the UK’s leading private medical insurance provider for a reason, it delivers on its promises and aims to offer a comprehensive, worry free service to policyholders making a claim. Excellent retention rates demonstrate a high degree of satisfaction with the companies claims process and customer service. The Bupa cancer promise offers particular peace of mind, and the fact they offers a wider access to expensive drugs than any other insurer is a major selling point for their policies. As with other insurers Bupa suffer from issues with premium increases and costly shortfalls, but overall they’re a safe bet if you’re looking to take out a private medical insurance policy.

Like this guide? Share it: