British health insurance companies

Four British medical insurance companies hold a 90 per cent market share in the UK: Bupa, Prudential, Aviva and Axa PPP, making them the largest providers.

The big four – the top private medical insurance providers

Formed in 1947, BUPA is actually two years older than the NHS. It is a vast company, which runs care homes, health centres, dental services, hospitals (including the Cromwell Hospital, London) as well as providing private medical insurance for UK residents and international patients wanting to come to the UK for treatment. Won Health Care Insurance Provider of the Year award 2013.

First offered private medical insurance to UK customers in 2004 and has expanded recently by acquiring Standard Life Healthcare (2010). The company has a strong financial services background and its current approach is to promote health and vitality – with vitality ambassador Jessica Ennis-Hill. Policy holders who get healthier over the term of their policy get some of their premiums back as a cash incentive.

Formerly Norwich Union, Aviva is the largest overall insurer in the UK, providing all manner of cover including private medical insurance. It has a 300-year-history and claims to have 34 million customers all over the world. The company offers a wide range of policies including international health insurance, diagnostics insurance, income protection as well as private medical insurance. These policies feature a hefty no claims discount (66% off your next premium if you don't claim in year 1).

Formed in 1940 to provide health insurance to well-off works in central London, AXA PPP has now become one of the largest providers of private medical insurance to UK customers. Named Best Healthcare Provider in 2013 by Your Money. Offers extras such as a massive online information resource, a fast track appointment service, a second opinion option and a 24-hour health support phone service.

Other major players in the sector include the Simply Health Group, General and Medical, WPA and Saga.

The company has been running its 'we can be bothered' campaign successfully for several years now and offers a wide range of products for medical insurance, including cash plans, dental plans and full private health insurance. Offers a no claims discount and different levels of excess.

Probably the largest independent medical insurer in the UK – General Medical focuses entirely on private medical insurance. Offers family cover for all children in the family but charges for only one. Over 500 hospitals and runs UK based call centres.

Does not participate in capped payout or fee assured schemes as the company stresses that the choice of doctor should be a clinical not a commercial one. Flexible policies incorporating shared responsibility.

Better known for providing holidays to older people, Saga Health Insurance specialises in private medical insurance aimed at customers who've celebrated their 50th birthday. Provides cover to people of any age (no upper age limit) and does not require a medical.

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