While the entire public health sector is accessible free of charge to nationals and eligible residents of the country, the lack of private-practice physicians and the saturation of public hospitals often lead patients to seek treatment in private facilities. In order to cope with the extremely high fees of this sector, which are entirely at the expense of the patient, supplementary health insurance becomes essential.
Health insurance for expats in the UK
How does the healthcare system work in the UK?
The UK health system, run by the NHS (National Health Service), guarantees all eligible residents completely free access to key healthcare services:
Consultations with an NHS approved general practitioner, which each insured person must choose
Consultations with specialist doctors referred to by the GP
Hospitalisation in public healthcare centres
Tests, examinations, etc.
Other care services are partially covered, where a portion is paid by the policyholder (except in cases of exemption), specifically:
Dental care (the policyholder’s portion being, for example, around £23 (US$30) for a consultation and £23 to £65 (US$30 to US$86) for descaling)
Vision care (the maximum reimbursement is £39 to £215 (US$51 to US$288), depending on the type of lenses and prescription)
Medicines, for which the policyholder pays a fee of about £9 (US$11) per prescription
> Good to know: All care provided in the private health sector is excluded from NHS coverage.
However, this social security service is only available to foreign residents on condition that they pay a specific contribution, called the Immigration Health Surcharge, of £624 (US$836) per year per adult and £470 (US$628) per child under 18. This rule is applicable to all expats, including EU nationals who choose to move to the UK as of 31/12/2020.
How to choose health insurance in the UK: local or international?
Both Britons and expats generally take out supplementary health insurance to cover out-of-pocket expenses and private-sector care.
A number of employers offer this extended insurance to their employees but beware of local insurers' contracts, as they may sometimes limit their coverage to only certain networks of health facilities.
Clearly, opting to take out supplementary international health insurance gives you access to a set of extended guarantees and services that are specifically adapted to the needs of expats.