Health insurance can be harder to find and more expensive if you are over 50. This is because you are more likely to claim for private medical treatment as you get older. Some insurers also have age limits on their policies.

But some insurers do not set age limits. You can get quotes from our health insurance broker, who can also offer advice on picking the best policy.

How to choose the best health insurance

Check the cover

Each policy comes with different rules on:

  • What illnesses, injuries and symptoms it can pay to treat

  • What types of treatment it can pay for, e.g. inpatient care but not outpatient treatment

Here is how health insurance works, what conditions it can cover and what treatment it can pay for.

Check the cost

Health insurance comes with two main costs:

  • The premium is what you pay for the policy, usually charged monthly

  • The excess is how much you have to pay towards the bill yourself if you claim

You could cut the cost of your policy by choosing one that only covers exactly what you need.

A tailored over fifties policy could pay for treatment you want access to but not cover treatment you would not sure. Excluding cover you do not need could get you a better deal with cheaper premiums.

What is health insurance?

Health insurance, also known as private medical insurance (PMI), covers the costs of private medical treatment if you are ill or injured. If you require private treatment, consultations, tests or surgery during the policy's term, your insurer should cover the cost.

As in the UK all essential medical treatment is currently provided for free on the NHS, health insurance works best for those with acute conditions, which are curable and short term.

You usually pay a monthly amount for your health insurance, which is called the premium. As long as you keep up with your premiums, your insurance can pay out if you need any covered treatments while the policy is active.

Most private health insurance policies are designed to offer treatment alongside the service provided by the NHS. For example, you might initially have an appointment with your NHS GP, who would then be able to refer you to a private practice for further treatment.

The benefits of medical insurance include getting treatment sooner, a wider choice of where you get treatment, a private room and a wider range of treatment types.

Private medical treatment is not always the best option, so make sure to check with your GP to see if you would be better off sticking with NHS services.

Lowering the cost of your premiums

Private health insurance and medical treatment can be very expensive, but there are ways to cut the costs.

A no claims discount: If you hold a health insurance policy for a significant period of time without making a claim, your premiums should get cheaper.

The excess: This is the amount you have to pay towards treatment yourself when you make a claim. Choosing a higher excess usually makes your premiums cheaper but makes claiming on the policy more expensive.

Adding a wait period: This means that if the NHS waiting list is shorter than your specified wait period, you will get your treatment through the NHS. If the waiting list is longer, your policy pays for private treatment.

Using nominated hospitals: Your premium could be cheaper if you only choose to be covered at a few hospitals or surgeries. Check the ones you choose are located nearby or offer the specialist treatment or facilities you think you may need.

Proving your health: Some insurers reduce your premiums if you are a non-smoker or regularly use a gym.

Who can get health insurance?

While most people should be able to find a health insurance policy in the UK, some providers will insist on a maximum age you can take out their cover. This is usually between 65 and 80, but check your policy documents to make sure.

However, other, more specialist policies will come with higher age limits or no age limits. Therefore you should still be able to find cover if you are retired or elderly. Some insurance companies offer policies specifically designed to cover older customers, and some only offer policies to over 50s.

Health insurance usually costs more when you are over 50. Your age affects how much it costs because older patients claim more frequently for consultations and treatment.

This costs the insurance company more, so they charge higher premiums to insure older customers.

This means that if you are in your 70s, you could pay as much as three times more for health insurance than someone in their 30s.

Even if you already have a policy, it usually gets more expensive as you get older because the cost of the premiums is not fixed. Health insurance premiums are usually reviewed annually and can go up or down every year.

What does health insurance cover?

Each individual health insurance policy can cover different conditions and types of treatment. Some insurers do not cover treatment for certain illnesses and conditions, but others will offer to cover them at an extra cost.

Statistically, older people are more likely to have pre-existing conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure that can affect the cost of health insurance.

Some insurers will still offer you a policy even if you suffer from a pre-existing illness, but they may not pay out to treat conditions you have before you take out the policy.