Cheap health cover: how to pay less for private medical insurance

Updated on 18 April 2024

Looking for cheap private health cover? It's possible to get a competitive private medical insurance policy, but make sure you understand what you might be sacrificing.

Shop around for cheaper health cover

If you’re looking for or already have a PMI policy but the cost is becoming prohibitive, shop around to see if you can save.

Just make sure you read the small print to ensure you understand what's included and not included for the price.

Fill in this simple online form to get a free private medical insurance quote from our partner, Active Quote.

Change your cover level

Most insurers offer three levels of cover: comprehensive, standard and budget.

Budget plans trim your costs by excluding outpatient treatment such as initial diagnostics and consultations, which you can get free on the NHS if you’re prepared to wait and exclude things like alternative therapies.

But you are still fully covered for serious inpatient treatment, anything from a hip replacement to cancer care.

Alternatively, you could choose a plan targeting specific illnesses such as heart disease or cancer to lower costs. 

Excesses and no-claims

When you take out car insurance or home insurance policy, you can cut your premium by agreeing to pay the first £50 or £100 (or more) of a claim. The same principle applies with private medical insurance.

A small excess of just £100 or £250 in each policy year or each claim could slice 10% to 20% off your premiums. The higher the excess, the lower your premium.

Some insurers take the principle to extremes, with excesses in the thousands, but this means you are only likely to claim for major illnesses.

Many insurers also offer no-claims discounts, which can hack up to two-thirds off your premiums. Just make sure you're not put off claiming vital treatment by the prospect of losing your no claims.

Get a free, no-obligation private medical insurance quote using Active Quote's online form

A-list or C-list?

Some insurance plans offer you access to every private hospital in the country, including central London teaching hospitals. This is sometimes called the A-list or Band A.

That’s great if you can afford it, but you can save money by limiting your choice to cheaper B-list or C-list private hospitals, or even NHS pay-beds (Band D).

Some insurers also offer the option of refunding your inpatient and outpatient costs, providing you use one of their designated hospitals. If you live near one of these hospitals, this can be a straightforward way to reduce your costs.

Six-week option

Some insurers offer a 'six-week clause', which offers savings if you are prepared to use the NHS in some situations.

Typically if the local NHS waiting list for your condition is less than six weeks, the deal means you must get your treatment on the NHS. If the waiting list is longer, you go private straight away.


Co-insurance or shared responsibility plans cut your premiums if you agree to pay a share of any treatment costs. Insurers believes this helps cut frivolous claims, and pass on the savings to you. 

Some insurers pay part of your premium into a deposit account in your name, with the remainder set aside to fund any treatment.

When you claim, you pay a percentage of the cost from your personal deposit account and the insurer pays the rest, up to cover limits. If you don’t claim, the money in the deposit account is yours (although the account doesn’t pay interest).

Get a free, no-obligation private medical insurance quote using Active Quote's online form

Other ways to save

There are plenty of other innovative plans available.

Some insurers provide you with a pot of money for necessary medical treatment. You can either spend this on private treatment, or seek treatment on the NHS and pocket the cash instead.

Others offer you reward points for healthy living, such as eating salads and going to the gym, which reduce your premiums.

Finally, there is nothing stopping you from setting up your own savings fund to cover private treatment, and self-pay at a private hospital chain if the NHS waiting list for your condition is far too long.

Get a free, no-obligation private medical insurance quote using Active Quote's online form

*This article contains affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission on any sales of products or services we write about. This article was written completely independently.


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