Who is Bupa health insurance?

Bupa was founded in 1947, before the birth of the NHS, to 'prevent, relieve and cure sickness and ill-health of every kind'. It's a company limited by guarantee, meaning it doesn't have shareholders.

Bupa has grown to provide treatment to over 31 million people globally, which includes over 17 million health insurance customers. It also operates its own network of private healthcare facilities, including hospitals, care facilities and specialist treatment centres.

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What does Bupa offer to businesses?

Bupa offers two levels of health insurance designed to meet the needs of businesses of different sizes. Their small business health insurance is available to companies with between 2 and 249 employees, whilst their corporate health insurance is for companies with 250+ employees.

Each policy offers different levels of coverage so you can tailor your health insurance to meet the needs of your workforce. You can also add further services such as occupational health support, an employee assistance programme and a vaccination programme if needed.

What are the benefits of private health insurance to your business?

Offering private health insurance as part of your employee benefits package helps you to attract top talent as it shows your employees that you value them. In addition, it gives your team quick access to private healthcare and avoids spending time on an NHS waiting list. This doesn't just reduce absenteeism; it can also positively impact their mental well-being.

When you include an employee assistance programme as part of your plan, you enable your staff to access confidential support and advice for personal issues outside work. Private health insurance can also provide tools to help you manage your employees' workplace well-being.

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What do Bupa's business health insurance policies include?

Bupa's Select policy offers different services depending on the size of your business. You can also tailor the level of coverage you provide by choosing from their Key, Enhanced or Complete policy options. I'll focus on their Complete policy here, as it offers the most comprehensive cover.

Small business health insurance

Small business cover is available to businesses with between two and 249 employees.

Here's what's included.

Core cover

In-patient treatment and day-patient treatment

In-patient and day-patient care are covered as standard on all health insurance policies. It covers the costs of eligible treatment, including surgery and accommodation, when you're admitted to the hospital. Bupa health insurance also covers the costs of out-patient surgery as part of their core cover.

You can also access home nursing and a private ambulance after in-patient treatment.

Cancer cover

Bupa health insurance will pay your employees' cancer treatment costs in full regardless of the level of coverage you opt for. Full cancer cover includes chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery and provides access to the newest drug therapy and treatment that the NHS may not currently fund. You can also opt to add other therapies or place a financial limit on the level of coverage you receive, depending on your budget.

Bupa's NHS cancer cover allows your employees to claim a cash benefit if they receive NHS treatment.

Out-patient cover

Most health insurance only offers out-patient cover as an optional extra, so Bupa health insurance stands out from the crowd by providing it as standard. Out-patient cover allows your employees to see a consultant and have diagnostic tests privately before going on to have treatment. Without it, they'll need to get their diagnosis via the NHS before being referred for in-patient treatment.

Bupa business health insurance covers the cost of consultations, x-rays, scans, diagnostic tests, physiotherapy and alternative treatments. These include acupuncture, osteopathy and chiropractic treatment.

Mental health cover

Bupa health insurance includes up to 45 days of in-patient or day-patient treatment for mental health conditions, including chronic conditions, which are usually excluded from any health insurance cover. Whilst the policy doesn't cover treatments for behavioural or developmental disorders or learning difficulties, your employees can access treatment for related conditions such as anxiety and depression.

Bupa's mental health insurance covers treatment for addiction and substance abuse, which other health insurance providers typically exclude.

Cash benefit plans

I've already mentioned the cash benefit that's available if your employees opt for NHS cancer treatment. They can also claim cash back if they spend a night in an NHS hospital as an in-patient or receive one of a range of different procedures that would otherwise have been covered privately via their Bupa health insurance.

Optional extras

Bupa's comprehensive policy includes an impressive level of coverage as standard, giving your employees all the main benefits of private health insurance cover. In addition, their optional extras can enhance the coverage your policy offers and provide you with tools to help you manage your workforce's health and offer well-being benefits.

Dental cover

Free NHS dental treatment is typically limited to those under 19 and individuals receiving low-income benefits, so it's likely only available to your employees if they're pregnant or have given birth in the last 12 months. They may already be paying for private dental treatment or considering a dental plan.

Bupa health insurance offers five different levels of dental cover with their dental choice plan or a cash benefit which enables your employees to claim cash back. Both plans cover regular checkups and treatment for dental injuries, oral cancers, emergency, and orthodontic treatment. Each level of coverage on their dental choice plan provides a different financial limit which could mean that your employees can access additional treatment or checks should they need them.

Private GP appointments

All Bupa health insurance customers receive access to their Digital GP service as standard. However, their business customers can also opt to add private face-to-face appointments, provided either at Bupa health centres or at their workplace.

You can fund the service yourself, either with a fixed annual fee of £150 per employee or on a pay-as-you-go basis. Alternatively, you can opt for the employee-paid scheme, which gives your employees access to discounted appointments, private prescriptions, sick notes and tests.

Employee Assistance Programme

Bupa's employee assistance programme (EAP) enables your employees to access counselling and emotional support for stress, anxiety, grief, financial worries or problems at home. Offering a confidential third-party service encourages your employees to seek help when they need it without fear of judgment. This service will also share anonymised information to enable you to tailor your well-being benefits and services to your workforce.

The EAP provides self-help information and can also signpost or refer your staff to appropriate treatment or additional support.

Health assessments

A workplace well-being strategy and programmes can help improve employee engagement and make employees feel supported and valued. However, designing a programme with the right benefits can be challenging if you don't know what issues to focus on. Bupa's health assessments offer health checks that are followed up with a year's worth of support to help your employees achieve their personal health goals. There is a range of plans so you can choose the one that best suits your employees' needs.

Occupational health services

If you don't already have an occupational health provision in-house, you can outsource it to Bupa. They offer risk assessments, health surveillance, and support when employees are away from work due to ill health.

Flu vaccinations

This service provides flu vaccinations for employees who aren't eligible for a free NHS vaccination. You can opt to have a nurse come to your workplace to administer vaccines to up to 104 employees per day or provide vouchers to allow your staff to receive their vaccination at a participating pharmacy.

This could offer a significant ROI, considering that hospital admissions due to flu were up by 47% in one week in January 2023. In addition, flu is now outstripping COVID-19 in terms of workplace absences and impact on the UK economy.

Other services

Bupa health insurance offers additional services to provide your employees with access to quick and convenient health advice and support.

Digital GP

Bupa health insurance includes access to the Bupa Digital GP app. This allows you to book a telephone or video call appointment to speak with a GP 24/7, which means that your employees can access health advice that fits around their work and family commitments. They can also talk to a specialist nurse, pharmacist or physiotherapist. Alternatively, they can use the symptom checker for reassurance or as a first step.

After their appointment, a GP can issue a private prescription or provide a referral to a consultant or specialist for further treatment.

Telephone support

Some health queries don't need an appointment with a GP, so Bupa health insurance includes 24/7 telephone access to a nurse via their Anytime HealthLine. This service allows your employees to get advice on minor injuries and ailments, children's health issues and even which vaccinations they'll need for their next holiday. In addition, nurses can provide self-care advice or refer your employee to a GP if they need additional help.

Bupa's family mental HealthLine supports parents with concerns about their children's mental health. Employees can speak with a nurse or specialist advisor about any issues, and their children don't have to be covered by the policy.

Direct access treatment

Your employees can skip the GP appointment and use Bupa's Direct Access treatment service for advice on cancer symptoms, skin issues, musculoskeletal problems and mental health conditions. In addition, their specialist advisors can offer advice and support to enable your employees to self-treat at home or refer them for further treatment without needing a GP referral.

Choice of hospital list

Private health insurance cover lets your employees access quick, high-quality private healthcare at a time and location to suit them. Bupa covers treatment via their own private hospital network or at a Bupa-approved provider. Depending on your budget and location, you can choose from three different hospital lists. The Bupa' essentials' list provides access to over 300 hospitals and treatment centres across the UK. However, if you opt for comprehensive cover, you'll automatically have access to their 'extended choice' list, which includes over 600 hospitals and clinics.

If your business is based in Central London, it's worth considering adding the 'extended choice + London' list to your policy. The costs of private treatment in London are typically higher than elsewhere in the country, so you'll need to pay an increased premium to include access. The main benefit is that it enables your employees to have treatment close to home.

You can use Bupa's online hospital finder to consider your options, and it also offers the most up-to-date list when your employees need to book treatment.

Corporate health insurance

Bupa's corporate health insurance includes all the core coverage and services you'll find in its small business health insurance. In addition, their corporate customers can benefit from an enhanced mental health offering with the 'Mind Matters' programme and a policy that offers a stripped-back option for your team.

Mind Matters

The Mind Matters programme combines some of the services available as part of Bupa's small business health insurance but offers you the option to add further support if needed. For example, it includes the employee assistance programme that supports your team and provides data to allow you to create an effective well-being programme.

You can also opt to receive workplace resilience and stress management support. This includes training for managers and other employees to help them build resilience and prevent stress-related mental health conditions. There's also an online platform that every employee can use to help them manage their mental well-being.

Bupa can also provide major change or crisis counselling so your employees can access mental health support during critical incidents or periods of significant change, such as a redundancy process or business restructuring.

Bupa Balance

Bupa Balance is available to companies with 300+ employees. It doesn't cover some elements you'd usually expect from health insurance, such as cancer cover and in-patient care. Instead, it offers access to diagnostic tests, health checks and out-patient therapies. Members can also book virtual GP appointments and use the Anytime HealthLine and Family Mental HealthLine if appropriate.

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What's excluded

Private health insurance covers treatment for acute conditions but also comes with a list of exclusions. Many of these are excluded by every health insurance provider and typically include treatment at A&E, intensive care, allergic disorders, pregnancy and childbirth and cosmetic surgery. You can see a complete list of Bupa's treatment exclusions here.

Depending on their medical history, your employees may also have specific exclusions added to their policy.

Chronic conditions

A chronic condition is one that a course of treatment can't cure and needs ongoing monitoring and treatment. Unfortunately, these conditions aren't covered by private health insurance and can include asthma, diabetes and cystic fibrosis.

Pre-existing conditions

Pre-existing conditions are any medical issues for which your employee sought medical advice or treatment in the five years before joining the policy. These will be excluded from cover during the first two years of the policy but can then be added if your employee stays symptom-free.

For example, if they had physiotherapy for hip pain three years ago and then need a hip replacement during the first two years of the policy, they won't be able to have the operation privately and will need NHS treatment. However, if they haven't had any issues for two years and need surgery later, this could be covered by their health insurance.

Benefits of Bupa health insurance

Bupa health insurance includes many elements as part of its comprehensive cover that you won't find as standard with other health insurance policies. Whilst I'd recommend opting for the highest level of coverage if your budget allows, they also offer different levels so you can tailor your health insurance cover to suit your employees' needs and your budget.

Cancer cover

Every health insurer offers cancer cover as part of its core offering. However, Bupa's full cancer cover guarantees to pay claims in full regardless of the level of coverage you choose. That means your employees won't have to deal with the additional stress of dealing with cover limits at an already stressful time. They'll also have access to breakthrough cancer drugs and treatments that may not be available on the NHS.

Out-patient cover

Most health insurance cover only offers out-patient cover as an optional extra at an additional cost, but Bupa health insurance includes it as standard. This gives you all the main benefits of health insurance as your employees can see a consultant and get a diagnosis quickly rather than waiting for an NHS diagnosis before they can start private treatment.

Mental health cover

Bupa health insurance covers more mental health conditions than any other insurer. In particular, these include treatments for addiction and substance abuse which most health insurance cover excludes altogether. If you opt to add the 'Mind Matters' programme or Employee Assistance programme to your policy you can also give your employees the tools to manage their long-term mental well-being.

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Disadvantages of Bupa health insurance

Bupa's business medical insurance stacks up well in comparison to other providers in the health insurance industry. Bupa Select health insurance policy covers many elements as standard that you'll usually only find as optional extras with other insurers. Its policy on exclusions is also the same as you'll find with other insurers.

The only real disadvantages I found were within the customer reviews, where there seemed to be confusion about which consultants and hospitals patients could use for their treatment. Some customers also described having difficulty accessing online services. I suspect this may be an issue for some customers and not others, but I would recommend checking what support is available to business customers.

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Customer reviews

Bupa health insurance reviews on Trustpilot give them an impressive overall rating of 4.2* from over 17,000 reviews. In addition, 68% of responses gave them a 5-star rating. Bupa is responsive to their reviews, offering thanks for good reviews and providing updates or additional information in response to poor reviews.

Positive reviews talk about good customer service, including being easy to contact on the phone, a straightforward claims process, excellent treatment and good coordination of services for a patient with complex health needs. However, it's worth remembering that some of these reviews will come from people who have gone to Bupa direct to access self-pay treatment, so individuals commenting solely on their hospital treatment won't all be health insurance customers.

8% of reviewers gave Bupa only 1 star. These reviews talk about poor customer service, a slow claims process and long waiting times on the phone. They also express frustration with the level of coverage offered under their policy, including the number of physiotherapy treatment sessions and lack of cover for some additional hospital fees. These reviews also describe difficulties accessing the website to verify contact details when setting up their policy. There also appear to have been some misunderstandings about which consultants and hospitals are covered. I recommend ensuring that your employees have comprehensive information about what their policy covers and which hospital list you've chosen so they can access the correct information.

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Getting professional advice

There are many different insurance providers on the market, and comparing them can be time-consuming. Speaking with a health insurance broker will enable you to compare suitable policies quickly and easily, with expert support to help you make the right choice for your employees. Contact us for a comparison quote and impartial, independent advice on your health insurance needs.

Tobias Britton

Tobias Britton

With over 15 years of experience, Tobias leads the expert team at Globacare. A CII IF7 qualified adviser himself, with a Diploma of Insurance to his name too, he's our resident expert in health, life, income and business protection insurance.

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