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5 factors affecting the cost of private health insurance in the UK

Securing private health insurance as an expat or traveller in the UK isn’t cheap, so careful consideration needs to be taken to ensure you get a plan at the right price. The average cost of a private health insurance plan is influenced by a number of factors and knowing what they are can help you secure the best health insurance plan in the UK.

In this article, Pacific Prime UK has put together a list of factors that individuals should carefully understand when looking for a suitable, and affordable private health insurance plan.

What are the factors affecting the cost of private health insurance?

In the UK, the cost of private health insurance varies by provider, but you can expect the premium for your plan to be affected by the following factors:

  1. Age: How old you are, especially if you are over 50.
  2. Postcode or location: Where you live can be a factor. Sadly, the health postcode lottery is true.
  3. Smoker or non-smoker: Your status as a smoker, non-smoker, ex-smoker, or someone who instead uses vaporizers will be taken into account.
  4. Pre-existing conditions: Whether you suffer or have suffered from a medical condition such as a stroke, diabetes, cancer, and so forth. This can also occur due to smoking or any other poor lifestyle choices like heavy alcohol consumption.
  5. The level of cover: What level of cover and limits you want.

The next section of this article goes into further detail for each of the above factors.

How does your age affect the cost of your health insurance premium?

It is worth noting that age is considered to be one of the main factors affecting the cost of private health insurance. This is because your medical needs are usually dependent on your age. So the older you are, the more likely you are to need medical services, and therefore your premiums will usually be higher than for a younger person. However, this isn’t to say that young people are without health problems. It is just a reality to accept that older individuals are more prone to health problems like heart attacks, strokes, and so forth.

Is there private health insurance for senior citizens over the age of 50?

Yes, it is possible to secure private health insurance but it can be harder to find and more expensive to do so. This is the harsh truth that you must accept because you are more likely to claim for private medical treatment as you get older. Not all insurers offer such plans, as some insurers also have age limits on their policies. It is worth contacting a broker like Pacific Prime UK, to receive impartial advice of the insurers that are offering private health plans for individuals over 50.

How does being a smoker or an ex-smoker affect the cost of your health insurance?

According to one of our partners, Bupa UK, smoking is the most common cause of death and non-communicable diseases such as stroke, cancers, and most heart disease. In the UK, nearly 78,000 people die each year from smoking-related causes.

Cancer and heart risks caused by smoking

Smoking causes around 7 out of every 10 cases of lung cancer (70%) and can be responsible for many other types of cancer, including cancer of the:

  • Mouth
  • Throat
  • Larynx
  • Oesophagus
  • Bladder
  • Bowel
  • Cervix
  • Kidney
  • Liver
  • Stomach
  • Pancreas
  • And more

Smoking also damages your heart and lowers your blood circulation, which increases your risk of developing conditions such as:

Smoking affects the level of health premiums

When factored in for private health insurance, smoking can significantly affect the cost of the premium you pay for cover. In fact, the difference in premium for a smoker and non-smoker could be anywhere between 30% and 50% (depending on the insurer).

Even if you’ve quit smoking and have switched to using a vaporizer, your premiums may still be higher than if you didn’t smoke at all. This is because most health insurance providers take nicotine consumption into account, rather than whether you are smoking traditional tobacco products such as cigarettes.

It’s also worth mentioning that the majority of health insurers would expect you to have not smoked for at least 12 months to be considered a non-smoker.

Takeaway tip: Disclose all lifestyle choices including smoking

It is important that you disclose any existing medical conditions or lifestyle choices when you take out a private health insurance policy, otherwise, the policy may be declined when you come to make a claim. This also applies to anyone who consumes alcoholic beverages.

Pre-existing medical conditions due to smoking

A pre-existing condition is a medical condition for which you have experienced symptoms, received medication, or treatment before your policy started. Health insurance providers typically exclude pre-existing medical conditions, but if you would like coverage for any particular pre-existing condition, then you can expect the premiums to be higher as you are more likely to make a claim. Of course, this depends on whether the insurer is willing to underwrite your specific medical condition or not.

Takeaway tip: Get insured when you are younger and without any pre-existing conditions

Buying health insurance at a younger age ensures there is less scope for pre-existing medical conditions as you will be covered early, and any diseases diagnosed later will be covered.

How your chosen benefits can affect the health insurance premium?

Like with any other form of insurance, the private health insurance premium is directly influenced by the number of benefits you choose and their limit. In other words, the more benefits you add to your plan, the higher the premiums you will have to pay.

Takeaway tip: Think carefully about your needs and balance them against your budget

When buying health insurance, you can lower the premium by choosing the necessary health benefits you need, choosing an annual payment (which usually comes with a discount), or by choosing a higher excess. To find out more about the average cost of private health insurance and why private health insurance coverage may be appropriate for you, our advisors can provide more information and help you understand better the process of securing health insurance.

Discover more with Pacific Prime UK

At Pacific Prime UK, we cover a range of topics related to health, such as maternity, mental health and wellbeing, employee health benefits, family health insurance, artificial intelligence, the UK healthcare system, and more.

Our recently released 2019-2020 State of Health Insurance report can also provide you with valuable insights and analysis from our team of in-house health insurance experts and leading global insurance partners.
Contact our advisors today to learn more about what we do as a health broker and discover the different types of plans available, such as travel insurance, corporate insurance, and more.


Content Creator at Pacific Prime UK
Jimmy is a content writer who helps simplify insurance for readers interested in international private medical insurance. He is on a mission in the UK to support locals, expatriates, and businesses by bring the latest news and updates to his Pacific Prime blog articles.

His expert view and wealth of knowledge on insurance can also be found in his blogs for the UK, China, Dubai, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Singapore.