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Health Insurance for Expats in the United Kingdom

Submitted: July 2013

As a general rule, the UK healthcare system is almost entirely based on the National Health Service (NHS), which is taxpayer-funded, universal (but residence-based) and free. The UK private healthcare sector is comparatively small, but it supplements the NHS for non-emergency situations. See Health Emergencies for Expats in the UK

As healthcare is traditionally fully financed by taxpayers, health insurance is not automatic in the UK, even though UK employers may offer private health insurance for staff retention purposes.

There are many types of health insurance on the British market, which makes it possible to tailor your cover to your needs.

Tax treatment of health insurance

Everyone is supposed to have an equal right to health in Britain, and this is meant to be guaranteed by the NHS. Therefore, individuals who pay for healthcare outside the NHS system are considered as seeking a private benefit on top of their basic right to health. (See NHS for Expats in the UK) It results that employer-provided health insurance is generally a taxable benefit in kind.

Exceptions are likely to apply for expats, however. Employer-funded private health insurance is tax-exempt in the UK in respect of:

  • Medical treatment outside the UK if the need for treatment arises while working outside the UK, provided the UK employer commits in advance to be responsible for these costs
  • Medical treatment against diseases or injuries that solely result from the employee’s work, and
  • Any medical treatment if the employee is paid at a rate of £8,500 or less per year, including benefits in kind.

Making a claim

When you seek private healthcare, specific procedures apply if you have a Private insurance policy. In the UK, you generally have to contact your insurance provider before going to a private healthcare professional. Failure to do so may result in an insurance claim being rejected. Additionally, some insurance providers do require claim forms to be signed by a GP. Although this is not automatic, GPs may charge for this service. If you wish to know that charge in advance, contact your GP. For more information on GPs, see Doctors & Hospitals for Expats in the UK

You should also check the geographical coverage of your existing insurance policy, especially if it is from a foreign provider which has not sold it as an international insurance policy for expats.

 

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