Your 60s are an exciting decade of transition. After many years of hard work, you will finally be able to retire and spend quality time with your family and loved ones. And while this transition is a welcome one for many, there is also much to consider.
For instance, if you had private health insurance as an employment benefit, you may need to explore other options if you wish to benefit from private healthcare post-retirement. And even if you never bothered with private health insurance before, getting on in age could have you thinking about your healthcare options.
A private health insurance policy offers many benefits:
- You will be seen quicker if you have health concerns.
- You may have better or more comprehensive medical treatment options available to you.
- You will have access to private hospitals and private rooms if you need to be hospitalised.
While the National Health Service (NHS) offers excellent free healthcare for all, approximately 13% of the UK population has private medical insurance. The coronavirus pandemic has significantly strained the NHS, so exploring your health insurance options could be prudent.
Health insurance policies are likely to be more expensive in your 60s. This is because insurers adjust their premiums based on the risk involved, and the older you get, the more likely you are to get ill. But there are policies tailored to older people that could suit your needs. And there are ways to keep your monthly premiums low if you are willing to compromise a little.
What health insurance policies are available to 60-year-olds?
60-year-olds can access the same types of insurance policies as the rest of the population. However, this age bracket also has access to specialist cover tailored towards over 60s. So while health insurance policies get more expensive in this age bracket, there are many choices available if you are interested in private treatment options.
Here is what you can expect depending on the type and level of cover you choose.
Seniors cover is tailored to older people. Some insurers cater to over 50s, others have offers available for those aged over 60 and 65. To keep costs low, most insurers have basic plans that only include inpatient cover. This automatically lowers your premium. However, seniors insurance policies can be flexible and will allow you to cover other conditions or needs separately. Because you have the flexibility to tailor your cover, you can pay for what you need rather than covering extras you won't benefit from.
While seniors health insurance can be costly, many insurers understand that retirees have a limited income and tailor their policies accordingly. However, it is still worth looking at other types of health insurance as, sometimes, insurance geared toward the general population works out cheaper than tailored policies. As with everything, shopping around is worthwhile.
A basic, no-frills private health insurance policy will be your most affordable option. The cheapest health insurance policies on the market will usually only cover your inpatient needs. However, some policies may offer limited outpatient cover, for minor surgery, for example. Inpatient cover applies to any inpatient treatment which requires you to stay overnight in a hospital. This could include:
- Hospital stays and any care you may require
- Treatment and medication fees
- Consultant fees for surgeons or physicians
- Diagnostic tests such as MRI scans while in hospital
This type of cover could work well if you are interested in only covering conditions that would require a hospital stay. Monthly premiums are relatively affordable. We investigated how health insurance premiums change based on your age and policy cover using comparison sites.
We found that people in their 60s would pay around £42 per month for a basic inpatient policy. A joint policy, including your partner, would cost approximately £57 per month.
These were the most affordable monthly premium options we found. But if you are interested in outpatient cover, these costs go up significantly.
All policies come with inpatient cover as standard. However, cheaper policies generally do not include outpatient cover where you are treated as a day patient.
Outpatient cover includes diagnostic tests and treatments that do not require overnight stays. Because most hospital visits do not require an overnight stay, this type of cover is likely to drive your costs up significantly.
However, outpatient cover is worth considering if you wish to be seen quicker and want access to extensive diagnostic tests. Depending on your policy, outpatient cover could include the following as standard:
- Minor diagnostic tests, including x-rays
- Minor procedures like wart removals
- Consultations with dieticians or therapists
Our research showed that a single person in their 60s would need to pay upwards of £100 per month for a policy including full outpatient cover. A joint policy could cost a couple upwards of £180 per month. This is more than double the cost of a basic policy.
One way to keep costs down if this type of cover is essential to you is to set an outpatient limit. Rather than opting for unlimited cover, you could opt to be covered up to a certain amount, for instance, £500 or £1,000 per policy year. This could reduce your overall monthly premium as well as give you the cover you desire.
Optional extras to consider
There are some additional options to consider if you are looking for a comprehensive health policy. Your provider could offer a combination of the below at an additional cost:
- Dental and optical cover
- Sessions with chiropractors or acupuncturists
- Mental health cover
- No claims discount protection
If you are looking to keep costs low, opting for additional coverage may not be the right choice for you. Once you turn 60, you are eligible for free eyesight tests and help with your dental fees in some cases.
But if some optional extras would be vital to you and you can comfortably afford a higher premium, you may wish to look into these.
Age-specific cancer occurrences rise significantly from your mid-50s onwards. This steep upward trend continues in your 60s, 70s, and 80s. While cancer treatment is available to UK residents via the NHS, you may wish to purchase additional cancer cover as part of your health insurance plan if you can afford to do so.
While some health insurance providers offer cancer cover as part of their standard packages, other insurance companies only offer it as an optional extra. Make sure you check exclusions before you purchase your insurance cover.
This type of health insurance cover provides private cancer care that could include cancer screening, stem cell therapy, surgery, wigs, and specific medical treatments and medications not available via the NHS.
Cover can vary widely depending on the insurance company you select. Monthly premiums for cancer cover start from just over £2 per month with Aviva, for example. Their Cancer Essentials cover includes cash benefits, cancer drugs cover, and a helpline. Vitality includes enhanced cancer cover as part of their standard health insurance policies. Most medical expenses relating to cancer care are covered under their policy.
What isn't covered by private health insurance?
While private health insurance can be tailored to your needs and includes various services, there are several health conditions and exclusions that you should be aware of when looking into private health insurance options. These include, but are not limited to:
- Cosmetic surgery
- Sex reassignment surgery
- Medical emergencies; these are handled by the NHS
- Pre-existing conditions; there are exceptions to this rule, but pre-existing conditions are notoriously difficult to cover
- Chronic medical conditions, including HIV/AIDS and diabetes
- Organ transplants
Make sure you read the wording of your policy carefully and consider any exclusions before you purchase your private health insurance.
What if I want to cover a pre-existing medical condition?
A pre-existing condition is any medical condition that you have received treatment or advice for in the past. If you experienced symptoms of the medical condition before taking out your health insurance policy, this is also treated as a pre-existing condition.
When health insurance providers decide whether to offer you an insurance policy, they look at your medical history. You will usually be asked to answer questions about your medical conditions before getting quotes.
Moratorium underwriting is one way to get cover for your pre-existing condition. If you opt for moratorium underwriting, you will not be asked to declare any pre-existing medical conditions. However, your health insurance provider will look at your medical history every time you make a claim. If you have been symptom-free and not received treatment for the medical condition for a specified period, you may be eligible to get it covered again under your insurance policy.
But moratorium underwriting comes with some drawbacks. First, it tends to be a more expensive type of health insurance cover. Also, because your insurance company will want to look at your medical history every time you make a claim, you may find the process is lengthier than with regular health insurance policies that ask questions about your medical history at the application stage.
If you are concerned about covering a pre-existing condition and are considering moratorium underwriting, you may wish to speak to an insurance broker before making a decision.
How to keep health insurance costs low in your 60s
If you are looking to keep costs down, several options could help you get the medical coverage you need with some compromises. These include:
- NHS Benefits: Once you turn 60, you are eligible for several NHS benefits, including free eyesight tests, free prescriptions, and free dental care in some cases. Make sure you take these into account when considering what optional extras to include as part of your insurance policy.
- Lifestyle changes: As you leave your stressful, career-driven life behind and prepare for retirement, you might consider some lifestyle changes. Quitting smoking is likely to knock your monthly premium down significantly. Staying healthy and active will keep your monthly premium lower for years to come.
- Higher excess: Setting a higher excess will lower your monthly premium. While some policies allow you to set an excess per claim, others have a rolling excess where you will be expected to contribute a set amount per year, after which your policy becomes excess free. Make sure you opt for an excess you're comfortable with, as claims can become expensive if you set it too high.
- The six-week rule: Many people opt for private health insurance because they are worried about long NHS waiting lists rather than the care provided by the NHS. The six-week rule offers a premium discount. You have to agree to be treated by the NHS if they can provide treatment within six weeks. If you can't access NHS treatment within six weeks, your insurer pays for private healthcare.
- Speak to an insurance broker: An insurance broker can work with you to get you the best deal possible. You could get a policy tailored to your needs and save hundreds in the process. If you're interested in speaking to an insurance broker, check out this guide.
- Pay it all in one go: Put your savings to good use and pay your health insurance policy off in one go if you can. If you have a 0% interest credit card, you could spread the cost that way and save yourself the interest. Insurance companies usually offer discounts if you're able to pay your insurance in one annual lump sum.
A guide to health insurance for over 60s
Your 60s are a time to celebrate a life well-lived. You can finally kick back and relax after a long, and hopefully, rewarding career. But it is essential to give yourself peace of mind. A private health insurance policy ensures that you will have access to a wide range of treatments and quick diagnoses if you have medical concerns. With growing NHS waiting lists, opting for private medical cover could be a good choice for you.
And there are many options available to you. From specially tailored medical insurance policies to general health insurance, there are many choices, including comprehensive outpatient cover and add-ons like mental health care and physiotherapy.
But premiums can be expensive, especially when it comes to more comprehensive policies. Still, there are ways to keep costs low. For example, you could pay for your policy annually, use an insurance broker, opt for a higher excess, or make lifestyle changes like quitting smoking.
Whether private health insurance is worth it is a personal choice only you can make. If you are happy with the care offered by the NHS, you might choose not to opt for health insurance at all. Nevertheless, it is crucial to keep yourself informed about your options.