Find the top UK health insurers and what questions to ask them

Around 8% of the UK population have some form of private medical insurance, yet from this number more than 80% are covered by the same 4 insurers alone. The big 4 private medical insurance providers have together created a near monopoly of the market. However, we all know that biggest doesn’t necessarily mean best, so I’ve taken a closer look in this chapter, to try and see whether the top insurers live up to their reputation in practice.

1. Bupa

  • Bupa is the largest private medical insurer in the UK with a 42% share of the market comprising of 3 million members.
  • Established in 1947 BUPA actually pre-dates the NHS and it’s long standing reputation in the UK is still second to none.
  • Choice of over 400 hospitals throughout the UK.
  • In recent years BUPA has expanded into other areas of healthcare and well-being such as nursing homes and health clubs. It recently sold it’s network of private hospitals to the Spire group.

2. Aviva

  • Over the last 5 years Aviva has gone from strength to strenght, greatly increasing it’s market share and revenue.
  • Aviva has recently been voted Health Insurance Company of the Year for the third year running.
  • By offering highly customisable and flexible policies Aviva has grown in popularity with policyholders wanting an increased choice from their insurer.


  • AXA PPP provides cover over a million people in the UK.
  • They offer highly customisable policies with additional options such as advanced cancer cover
  • Winner of the Best International Private Medical Insurance Provider at the recent 2012 medical insurance awards.
  • Choice of over 250 hospitals throughout the UK

4. Pru Health

  • Pru Health offer a unique approach to medical insurance with an increasing focus on individual responsibility and the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
  • Unlike other insurers rather than having a no claims discount you receive a discount for improving your health from year to year.
  • Established in the UK in 2004, Pru Health has experienced rapid growth and is today a key player in the medical insurance market.
  • Pru Health is most noted for its fresh and innovative approach to medical insurance by focusing on the importance of a healthy lifestyle.

Individuals looking to buy a medical insurance policy would do well to explore the options provided by these key players as a starting point. But what questions should you be asking? What factors should you consider in your hunt for the right insurer? I’ve tried to give you a few ideas below.

  • The level of cancer cover – This can vary, some insurers cover for a longer period of treatment than others.

  • Ease of making a claim – Can you complete the process over the phone, or do you have to fill in loads of forms?

  • What reputation does the insurer have in the industry? Take a look at some reviews online to get a more balanced view of the products they offer and their downsides.

  • How much does it cost? Of course this is an important question, but when comparing prices ensure they are for products that are as similar as possible. There will be a vast difference in price from a top of the range policy and a basic one.

  • Additional options available – Can you design the policy you want?

  • What customer service and support is available? When you’re ill the last thing you want to do is to deal with foreign call centres. Some insurers offer dedicated claims handlers for your claims, so you can speak to the same person each time you call.

  • Which hospitals can you use? Not all insurers allow you to use the same hospitals, so ensure you check your preferences are catered for by your chosen insurer.

  • Can you use your preferred specialist? Again not all specialists are registered with every insurer. Usually you can register a new specialist with your insurer but this can take time, and until they’re registered you won’t be able to use them.

Of course there are plenty of other questions you could ask, but these will vary depending on your preferences and needs. Don’t be afraid to call different insurers and ask the tough questions, it’s important you know the facts before entering into any insurance agreement. Only when you’re satisfied you’ve got the level of cover you want should you complete the contract. It can be heartbreaking if your claim is denied due to a misunderstanding of the policy basics, taking time now to read the small print could save you tears later.

Not all insurers are the same, some are better than others – so research thoroughly and choose wisely!

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