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How does private health insurance work?

Private health insurance is similar to other types of insurance. You pay a monthly or yearly fee called a premium.


Getting Referred

If you have a health issue, see your GP and let them know about your private cover. They may refer you to a specialist, and you might choose private hospitals or specialists not offered by the NHS.


Informing Your Insurer

Tell your insurer you want to make a claim. They'll check if your policy covers the treatment you need. If it does, your claim gets approved.


Cost Coverage

Your GP will book your appointment, and your insurance covers the cost if your policy is active. You might pay an excess depending on your policy.

What is cancer insurance?

Cancer insurance is a type of health coverage that kicks in when a patient is diagnosed with cancer. Essentially, it gives them access to private treatment options. While the NHS can handle the initial diagnosis, having this insurance means the patient can opt for private treatment afterwards.
Most insurance companies offer cancer treatment coverage, but how they do it can vary. Some include it as part of their main package, while others offer it as an extra add-on. The bottom line is you get to choose whether you want comprehensive cancer cover or something more tailored to your needs.

How does private health insurance work?

With cancer health insurance, you can get access to private treatments, like advanced procedures and eligible cancer drugs that might not be available right away through the NHS. Plus, you have the freedom to pick the hospitals and consultants you prefer, putting you in control of your treatment journey. This level of medical cover is offered in exchange for monthly or yearly premiums.

Your policy will likely fall into one of these categories:

  • Included as standard, with the option to upgrade. Your insurance plan already includes coverage for cancer, but you can choose to upgrade it for even better protection.
  • Fully comprehensive included as standard. Your policy gives you the best possible cancer coverage from the insurer right off the bat, without requiring any additional upgrades.

Either way, if your insurance includes cancer care and you’re diagnosed, your provider will usually pay for things like consultations, counselling, treatment, and recovery. However, the exact coverage depends on what’s specified in your plan and underwriting agreement.

Does health insurance cover cancer?

Yes, most health insurance providers in the UK offer cancer cover in some form. This coverage is highly important for many patients because it includes costly cancer treatments that aren’t available through the NHS.

However, please be aware that not all insurers cover every type of cancer. Some exclude coverage for certain types, while others don’t cover specific experimental therapies you might wish to pursue.

Is cancer covered under health insurance as standard?

Yes, as we’ve mentioned, most health insurance providers cover cancer as a standard. Each insurer has different health insurance policies, but generally, you can add cancer coverage to your plan for an additional cost if it’s not included automatically. If you want wider coverage, you can almost always get it for an extra cost.

If you’ve had cancer before, comprehensive cancer cover isn’t guaranteed, and some plans may cover you only if you’ve been symptom-free for a certain period. Also, some treatments, especially experimental ones, aren’t covered.

Benefits of cancer insurance

If you’re considering cancer cover for yourself and your family, here are convincing reasons to do so:

Faster diagnosis and treatmentWith faster diagnosis, patients can start treatment for any concerning symptoms right away. This is vital for improving recovery prospects.
Access to specialised treatment centresPatients have direct access to top-tier treatment centres, where health professionals are dedicated to their fight against cancer.
Coverage for more treatmentsIndividuals can explore advanced treatment options beyond standard procedures.
Support servicesThere are counselling and nutritional guidance available to address both physical and emotional aspects of treatment.
Flexible coverage optionsInsurers let members tailor plans to their needs and budget and get the right level of support
Continued coverage after recoveryEven after remission, certain plans offer continued coverage for follow-up care and screenings.
Coverage for palliative careBeyond cancer treatment, insurance can provide comfort and symptom management during difficult times.

What types of cancer can you get insurance for?

You can find insurance coverage for various types of cancer, including but not limited to breast, lung, skin, and colon cancer.

Note that not all insurers cover every type. To find coverage for a specific type of cancer, check policy documents or consult with your insurer or insurance broker for details.

In-patient and out-patient cover

In most health insurance plans, coverage for in-patient care is usually included by default. However, full coverage for out-patient services is less common and may require additional payment or extra coverage.

In-patient cover involves treatments that require you to stay overnight in a hospital or clinic, mostly for more intensive procedures like surgeries or extended medical care. It includes various services such as:

  • Diagnostic tests, like blood tests done during surgery admission
  • Surgeries
  • Physician and specialist fees
  • Hospital accommodation
  • Medication administered during your stay

On the other hand, out-patient cover applies to treatments where hospital admission isn’t necessary, such as:

  • Diagnostic tests, specialised scans like MRI or CT scans
  • Consultations
  • Therapy sessions

These are typically conducted during the day, and you don’t need to stay in the hospital overnight.

Exclusions for specific cancers

Some insurers have exclusions for:

  • Non-melanoma skin cancer unless it has progressed to an advanced stage or spread beyond its initial site
  • Prostate cancer unless active treatment is recommended by an NHS specialist
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia, as it’s a slow-progressing cancer that doesn’t always require immediate treatment
  • Papillary microcarcinoma of the thyroid
  • Late-stage cancers (stage IV or metastatic cancers) as treatment options and prognosis are much more limited

There may be more exclusions related to specific cancers or stages of progression.

What does cancer insurance cover?

Let’s take a look at what the major health insurers provide for cancer coverage. In most cases, you can expect key benefits to be access to costly drugs and therapies, home chemotherapy, private nursing care, the freedom to choose your medical facilities and consultants, monitoring during remission, and sometimes end-of-life palliative care.

We’ll walk you through a brief overview of what five companies cover, but it is important to double-check and ask about your individual circumstances. Remember: general rules don’t always apply once the insurer looks into your unique case.


Aviva’s extensive cancer cover is part of Healthier Solutions policy, and it includes:

  • Out-patient treatment limit — If you’ve chosen a monetary limit for out-patient treatment, it doesn’t apply to cancer treatment after diagnosis. However, it still applies to related consequences.
  • Reduced out-patient cover — Even with reduced out-patient cover, Aviva fully covers consultations and diagnostic tests. But the out-patient limit still applies to related medical conditions.
  • Six-week option — Under this option, Aviva doesn’t pay for NHS-available treatment within six weeks from your specialist’s recommendation. If your specialist suggests non-NHS treatment covered by the policy, it’s included.
  • Hospital and home coverage — Aviva covers treatment at hospitals you’ve chosen and at home if approved by your specialist and supported by a recognised homecare provider.

Make sure you use Bupa network hospitals and see Bupa-recognised consultants.

The Exeter

The Exeter has cancer cover included in its core Health+ policy. Members get full coverage for:

  • All treatment: chemotherapy, hormone therapy, radiotherapy (pain relief purposes included).
  • All types of cancer drug therapy, including maintenance drugs with NICE approval.
  • Specialist consultations, tests, and scans after cancer diagnosis. Consultations and tests for diagnosis are covered under the out-patient benefit or core cover.
  • Surgical procedures, including tumour removal and reconstructive surgery.
  • Bone marrow and stem cell transplants, excluding experimental procedures.
  • Follow-up reviews related to ongoing cancer care, including during remission.
  • Treatment aimed at controlling cancer symptoms or alleviating pain rather than curing the cancer.

At the end of life, The Exeter provides a £250 donation to support hospice care upon admission and fully covers terminal cancer care while awaiting hospice admission. Also, if members receive cancer treatment for free through the NHS, they’re entitled to an NHS cash benefit of £150 per night for up to 30 nights.


At Vitality, all their plans include advanced cancer cover. Once a member is diagnosed with cancer, they take care of all eligible costs, covering both in-patient and out-patient expenses.

This includes:

  • Full coverage for treatments like chemotherapy, radiotherapy, cancer surgery, biological therapies, stem cell therapy, hormone and bisphosphonate therapies, and reconstructive surgery.
  • Follow-up consultations for ongoing care.
  • For end-of-life home nursing care, they provide up to £1,000 per day for a maximum of 14 days.
  • Vitality also offers support for wigs and restyling, scalp cooling, mastectomy bras, and external prostheses.
  • Finally, they provide discounted screening and risk assessments for bowel and cervical cancer.

Plus, Vitality offers flexibility with home treatment options, including chemotherapy, and the ability to transition between home and hospital care as needed, with approval from the patient’s consultant.

What if I have had cancer in the past?

If you’ve had cancer in the past, it could impact your eligibility for coverage. Insurers are likely to add exclusions specifically for the type of cancer you’ve had previously, as well as for any potential secondary cancers from that.

However, some insurers offer coverage for new, unrelated cancers after a specified trouble-free period. During this time, if you remain cancer-free and meet the criteria outlined in your policy, you’ll be eligible for coverage of new diagnoses that are unrelated to your previous cancer experience.

Once again, you should discuss any concerns or questions with your insurer to ensure you understand the specific exclusions and coverage options available to you.


Is cancer cover worth it?

Having cancer insurance can really come in handy. It gives you extra money to cover expenses related to treatment, which can be a huge relief during such a challenging time. Plus, it’s often bundled with other benefits for different conditions, so you’re covered for more than just cancer. If cancer runs in your family, extra coverage is definitely worth considering.

What’s not covered by cancer insurance?

Cancer care typically doesn’t cover other health issues that emerge as a result of cancer treatment, like infections or diabetes. Non-approved treatments and travel-related expenses are mostly out of coverage. Also, certain serious medical conditions similar to cancer, such as carcinoma-in-situ, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and papillary microcarcinoma of thyroid, are excluded. Tumours occurring alongside HIV infection won’t be covered either.

Can you be denied insurance for cancer?

Yes, particularly if you’ve had cancer in the past. In such cases, insurers add exclusions to the policy, so they won’t cover anything related to your previous cancer diagnosis or treatment. It’s better to discuss your options with a broker or directly with insurers to find the best fit for your situation.