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Family health insurance explained

Find out what family health insurance is and how it works. Learn about the benefits of health insurance for your family and how much it costs.

What is family health insurance?

Family health insurance is a type of private medical cover intended to cover a single family under one policy. It provides access to private healthcare for you and your immediate family should you ever need it. This includes your partner and your children, but not siblings or parents. 

Private healthcare can cover seeing a private GP, physiotherapist or mental health professional. It also can offer quick diagnosis and treatment, stays in private hospitals, and access to specialist drugs and everyday care.

You can have several family members all on the same policy. This means there’s no need to pay for individual policies for each person so it can often work out cheaper. It also means the whole family benefits from the same access to treatment.


How does family health insurance work?

Family health insurance pays for a range of medical treatments, tests, surgery, and medication. It covers everyone named on the policy. When you set up the plan, you decide who you want to include in the cover. And you also choose the type of cover that suits your family best.

There’s just one monthly premium to pay as each person is on the same policy. This makes it easy to keep track of your payments and manage your policy. Children can be insured while they’re still dependent on you. This is usually up until their 18th birthday or until they finish further education.

You'll sometimes only need to pay for the eldest child, with their siblings insured for free. Other features can include adding new babies to the policy for free and receiving a cash payment when a baby is born.

When a family member is unwell, they can see a private GP quickly. A prompt diagnosis is particularly reassuring when young children are ill. If treatment is needed, you can check with your insurance company to see if they can have that treatment privately.

The insurance company will cover the cost of the treatment. In some instances, you may need to pay an excess. An excess is an amount that you pay towards your medical treatment before your insurance picks up the rest of the cost.

You can usually choose when and where to have the treatment which makes it easier to fit around family life. It can also mean that you’re seen much sooner than you would if you or your child had to wait for treatment on the NHS.

What does family health insurance cover?

Family health insurance policies vary, depending on the insurance provider. But most health insurance policies cover:

Private GP consultations

Access to video consultations and 24-hour health advice lines. You can get advice about your child’s health day or night.

Hospital treatment

The insurance covers in-patient and day-patient hospital and consultant fees. In-patient and day-patient diagnostic tests, such as pathology, radiology, and CT, MRI and PET scans are also usually covered in full. Surgical out-patient procedures are also covered. And some insurers cover treatment at home, such as chemotherapy. However, out-patient diagnostic tests are not covered as standard. You’ll need to take out optional extra cover for this. If your child is admitted as an in-patient, the insurer may pay your accommodation costs if you need to stay in the hospital overnight.

Find out more: The difference between in-patient and out-patient cover 

Cancer care

Your family health insurance can cover cancer care and support. This includes early risk assessments, discounted screenings and treatment. Thankfully, cancer in children and young people is relatively uncommon compared to adult cancers. But if the worst happens, you’ll want to make sure your child has access to every possible treatment.  Family health insurance can offer access to a wide range of treatment options, even those not available on the NHS.

Mental health support

You, your partner and your children can get access to early intervention therapies such as CBT, and counselling through talking therapies. You can also sometimes refer yourself or your child directly to a therapist rather than waiting for a GP referral.


Health insurance plans usually cover a set number of physiotherapy sessions. With some insurers, you can self-refer to a physiotherapist.  

Optional extras

Many health insurance plans also offer extra options. These include out-patient cover, dental insurance, and sight and hearing tests. You can tailor your plan to the services that suit your family best.

Find out more: What's included in Vitality core cover?

How do I get family health insurance?

You can buy family health insurance online from the insurer you choose. Or, you can buy it through a third party, like a comparison site. If you’re not sure what health insurance you need, there are advisers   who specialise in insurance. They can help.

The key things to look out for are:

  • The range of cover available. The core cover offered by insurance companies can differ between providers. You may have to pay extra for the cover you want if it’s not included as standard.
  • Cover limits. Some insurance companies put a limit on how much they’ll pay out over time, or for particular treatments. It's important to understand cover limits, as you may find yourself paying for private treatment when you didn’t expect to.
  • Exclusions. Any conditions you had before taking out health insurance are likely to be excluded. There are no exclusions for children who’re covered from birth. Each provider has different exclusions, so make sure you read their terms and conditions with care.

You may need to tell the insurer about your family’s health and lifestyle when you apply for cover. You won't always need to provide a full medical history straightaway. But you’ll need to be open and honest about any existing conditions in the family.


The cost of family health insurance

The cost of family health insurance is based on many factors, such as:

  • the number of people on your policy
  • their ages
  • where you live
  • medical history and lifestyle
  • type of cover
  • the excess you choose.

It’s best to get a personalised quote to find out how much you’ll need to pay for your family’s insurance.

Find out more: How is the cost of private health insurance calculated?


How can I reduce the cost of my family health insurance?

If your quote is not in your family budget, there are ways to reduce the cost of your family's health insurance.

Review the level of cover you need

Find a provider that offers all the cover you’re looking for with their standard plan or core plan. Then you won't need to pay for optional extras.

Increase your excess

The higher your excess, the lower your premium. You can pay towards your treatment by setting your excess at £500 or £1,000. This will make your premiums cheaper than if you had no excess. 

Choose your underwriting

Underwriting is how insurance companies consider your age, medical history, and past claims. They do this before they provide a health insurance quote.

If you choose Full Medical Underwriting, it considers your and your family's full medical history. Including pre-existing conditions. You may be able to get cover for pre-existing conditions, but it will probably cost more.

Moratorium Underwriting won’t cover any conditions you or your family member had in the previous 5 years. Usually, you also need to be free from the condition and its treatment for two years. Then, you can make a claim for that condition. This type of cover can be cheaper because of these exclusions.

Find out more: How to keep your premiums low? 

Family health insurance - things to consider

What level of cover do you need?

Find a provider that offers a high level of cover as a standard and check if that’s suitable for your whole family. Most insurers will allow you to add new family members as they come along. Also, be sure to check if there are any cover limits, as claims can add up if several members of your family need treatment.

Are you getting value for money?

Make sure you understand exactly what level of cover you're getting for your money. Also, find out if there are any costs that you’ll need to pay yourself, such as an excess. Or a shortfall on consultant fees.  

What’s your family’s medical history?

Family members with an existing condition probably won’t get insurance for that condition. But this doesn’t stop them from making a claim for any new condition. There are no exclusions for children who’re covered from birth.

Find out more: Health insurance and pre-existing conditions explained

Take advice  

Speak to a specialist adviser or one of our private health insurance team

The benefits of family health insurance

Peace of mind

It’s reassuring to know that the whole family are covered in case of unexpected illness or injury. You, your partner and your children can get quick access to a virtual GP and have treatment at a time that suits your family life.

Also, with family health insurance you can avoid lengthy hospital waiting list and get quick access to consultants and hospital treatments.

Easy to manage

Having everyone on the same policy makes family admin much easier. 


A family plan is usually more cost-effective than taking out individual polices for each member of the family. And you can easily add children to the policy as they’re born.

Vitality private health insurance

Want to know more about health insurance or thinking about taking out a policy? Here are some of the benefits of taking out health insurance with Vitality:

  • See a private GP within 48 hours 
  • Avoid lengthy hospital waiting lists 
  • Get specialist drugs and treatments 
  • See a consultant fast 
  • Refer yourself for physiotherapy 
  • Get mental support fast and without a GP referral
  • Discounts from top brands. And rewards for getting healthy.
Get your health insurance quote today
Published: 8 July 2024

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