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Moratorium Underwriting Guide 2024

Choosing moratorium underwriting is often the quickest and easiest way to buy a health insurance policy that you need. In our latest guide, our team of health insurance experts explain what moratorium underwriting is and all the main pros and cons that you need to be aware of.

Moratorium underwriting is used by most UK health insurance companies, as a faster option for health insurance applications. This process allows you to skip most of the medical questions, by automatically excluding any claims for conditions that are ‘pre-existing’.

Pre-existing medical conditions are very common in the UK, with millions of people living with conditions like asthma, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Over 15 million people in the UK live with one or more long-term medical conditions, according to figures from the Mental Health Foundation.

Health insurance companies provide multiple underwriting options, giving you the freedom to choose exactly how you would like them to deal with your medical conditions. It can be hard to understand all your options if you aren’t an expert, so many consumers find it useful to get extra advice from a health insurance specialist before they apply.

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60-Second Summary – Moratorium Underwriting Guide 2024

Moratorium underwriting offers a quicker and simpler way to purchase health insurance, as you won’t need to provide any medical evidence when you apply.

Most of the UK’s top health insurance companies will use moratorium underwriting including companies like Bupa, Aviva, AXA Health, and Vitality. If you aren’t sure whether moratorium underwriting is right for you, it can be helpful to get some free advice from an experienced health insurance expert.

  • The term “moratorium” in health insurance refers to a policy where pre-existing conditions are automatically excluded from claims for a set amount of time (typically two years).
  • The main benefits of moratorium underwriting include a much faster application process, less paperwork, and no need to answer lots of medical questions.
  • If your current policy has moratorium underwriting and you want to switch to a new health insurance company, you might be able to carry over any time already spent within the two-year moratorium period. This is known as ‘continued moratorium’ underwriting and is available with several insurance companies.
  • With moratorium underwriting, it can be possible to be covered for pre-existing conditions in the future, if you remain symptom and treatment free for at least two years after you buy your policy.
  • If moratorium underwriting doesn’t feel right for you, you can choose to have your policy fully medically underwritten. This is where the insurance company assesses your entire medical history during your health insurance application.

During your health insurance application, an ‘insurance underwriter’ will look at the details that you submit to work out your risk of claiming on your policy. This helps the insurance company to decide if they are willing to offer cover and what price you would pay.

Underwriting is a standard process for every type of insurance (e.g. health insurance, life insurance, income protection), and it helps the insurance company to get a clearer picture of your health and the amount of cover that you need.

If you choose moratorium underwriting when you apply for health insurance, the insurance company will automatically exclude any pre-existing conditions from within the last few years. This is usually five years, but the number of years can vary depending on the insurance company that you apply to.

It can be helpful to understand exactly what a ‘pre-existing’ condition is before applying for your policy. This quick video from Bupa explains more about health insurance for people with pre-existing conditions.

Bupa By You health insurance | Understanding pre-existing conditions

With moratorium underwriting, you won’t be able to claim for anything related to a condition for a minimum of two years if:

  • You have been diagnosed within the last five years
  • You have received any form of treatment within the last five years (e.g. surgery, counselling, physiotherapy)
  • You have been prescribed medication for a condition within the last five years
  • You have experienced symptoms of a condition within the last five years (this includes symptoms where you have not received an official diagnosis e.g. back pain)

The first two years of your cover are known as the ‘two-year moratorium period’ of your policy. Your insurance company may agree to cover new symptoms or complications of a condition after this, but this is not guaranteed.

If you are applying for a couples or family policy, each person can choose which type of underwriting they would prefer. This means that you could choose moratorium underwriting and your partner could choose full medical underwriting (FMU), and you would still be covered under one policy.

An experienced health insurance expert can explain more about how moratorium underwriting works and if this type of underwriting is the right choice for you.

Note: Health insurance companies will class a medical condition as pre-existing if you have experienced symptoms, or received treatment, medication, or advice in the last five years (see ‘What is a Pre-Existing Medical Condition?’ guide).

What does moratorium mean in insurance?

The word ‘moratorium’ might sound complicated, but it simply refers to a way in which health insurance companies decide on the terms of your policy.

You won’t need to declare any pre-existing health conditions when you initially apply, so you might have to supply extra medical information when you need to claim. The insurance company will usually contact your GP or specialist directly at this point, to find out more about your medical history.

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With some health insurance policies, you may be able to apply using ‘rolling moratorium’ underwriting. This is where your insurance company will not provide cover for pre-existing conditions for two years, but they might consider covering them after that.

You would need to be completely symptom and treatment-free (includes medical advice) and rolling moratorium underwriting won’t always be available.

Moratorium underwriting terms can be different depending on your insurance company, so you should check with the insurer or an experienced insurance expert if you’re not sure where you stand.

When you have pre-existing medical conditions, the insurance company will give you a choice of how you would like your medical history to be assessed. You can choose either moratorium or full medical underwriting, depending on what feels right to you.

These two types of underwriting are very different, so it is important to understand how each type works before making any decisions. Below, our insurance experts have put together a table to highlight some of the main differences between moratorium and full medical underwriting.

Moratorium underwritingFull medical underwriting
You won’t need to disclose previous diagnosis/treatments when you applyYou will need to fill in a questionnaire with full details about your medical history
Quicker application process than full medical underwriting, as you won’t need to supply full medical evidenceThe application process will take slightly longer, as you need to provide medical evidence (can include things like GP reports)
There will be more questions asked when you need to claim, as the insurer won’t have details about previous medical issuesThe claims process is usually faster, as the insurance company is already aware of any pre-existing conditions
Insurance premiums can be cheaper in some situations, as your medical history isn’t assessedCan potentially reduce the cost of cover because of excluding specific conditions/benefits

Note: This guide focuses on moratorium underwriting and you can read our ‘Full Medical Underwriting Guide 2024’ for more information about full medical underwriting.

There are a range of benefits to choosing moratorium underwriting for your health insurance policy. Some of the main benefits of moratorium underwriting include:

  • Faster application process
  • Less admin/paperwork as you won’t need to provide any medical details
  • Can be cheaper in some cases, as your health won’t be considered in the cost of your cover
  • Only excludes medical conditions from within the last five years and might cover conditions that were experienced before then (e.g. previous cancer diagnosis)
  • May be able to be covered for pre-existing conditions after two years (if there have been no symptoms, medication, treatment, advice etc.)

Most people who choose moratorium underwriting do so because it makes applying for health insurance simpler and quicker. It won’t be the right choice for every person, as some people may prefer to have their policy fully medically underwritten. If you need advice on this topic, a health insurance expert will be able to help.

Are there any disadvantages of moratorium underwriting?

The main disadvantage of moratorium underwriting is that you can’t be sure if your insurance company will pay out for a medical issue until you need to claim.

If they find that your reason for claiming is related to a previous medical issue (e.g. a heart attack), they could refuse to pay for the treatment that you need. It can also take longer for claims to be approved, as your insurance company will need to request extra medical information to validate your claim.

However, health insurance covers acute (short-term) medical issues and will ensure that you are seen and diagnosed as quickly as possible for new medical problems.  Your insurance company can also offer benefits that will complement the NHS care that you need for chronic medical conditions.

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It’s a totally personal choice as to whether moratorium underwriting or full medical underwriting feels right for you. Moratorium underwriting is faster, so this could be your best option if you’re keen to start your policy and don’t mind some extra questions when you claim.

Moratorium underwriting can be cheaper in some cases, as any medical conditions that you have won’t be considered in the price of your policy. There will also be less paperwork for you, and no chance of accidentally invalidating your policy by forgetting to mention a past medical issue.

Full medical underwriting can provide more security, as you will be told exactly what your insurance company will and won’t pay out for. It can be a longer process when you apply, but the claims process is usually faster, as the insurance company already has information about your medical history.

You should carefully consider the pros and cons of each type of underwriting to decide which one feels like your best option. It can be helpful to talk to a health insurance specialist for advice if you are unsure.

This quick and simple video from Bupa explains more about both moratorium and full medical underwriting.

Bupa By You health insurance | Underwriting choices explained

Every insurance company will have slightly different processes for underwriting, so you should do some research or get proper advice before you apply.

This will help you to make sure that you are applying to the companies that are the best fit for your budget and the type of health insurance that you need.

Vitality logo

Vitality offers three types of underwriting for health insurance customers which are full medical, moratorium, and Continued Personal Medical Exclusions (CPME).

Vitality’s moratorium underwriting works in the same way as most other health insurance companies. They won’t look at your full medical history and will exclude any medical conditions from within the last five years.

There isn’t much information about Vitality’s underwriting processes on their website, and you may want to ask a health insurance expert to explain your options to you.

Vitality: A Guide to Personal Healthcare – CLICK HERE

Bupa logo

Bupa health insurance customers who choose moratorium underwriting will need to complete a health questionnaire when they claim. They won’t need to supply medical evidence when they apply, and their website notes that:

‘You will not be covered for any pre-existing medical conditions until two years have passed without any incident for each condition.’

Bupa also provides a ‘moratorium switch’ option, which allows you to carry over your moratorium period from another insurance company when you switch policies. You can then continue your moratorium period with Bupa, instead of starting from scratch.

Bupa By You Policy Guide – CLICK HERE

Aviva logo

Aviva also offers moratorium underwriting for health insurance customers, as well as full medical underwriting. With Aviva, you can choose which type of underwriting you would prefer once you reach the ‘medical history’ step of your application.

Aviva’s moratorium underwriting works in the same way as other insurers, with an initial two-year moratorium period attached to your policy. This means that you won’t be able to claim for any medical condition for at least two years, if within the last five years:

  • You have had symptoms of the condition
  • You have received medication, treatment or advice for the condition
  • You have had diagnostic tests for the condition

If you buy Aviva ‘Speedy Diagnostics’ Insurance, Aviva will not pay out for diagnostic tests for any pre-existing conditions or related conditions, based on the same terms as with standard health insurance. You may be covered for new diagnostic tests, if you remain treatment and symptom-free for at least two years after buying your policy.

Aviva Healthier Solutions Terms and Conditions – CLICK HERE

Aviva Speedy Diagnostics Terms and Conditions –  CLICK HERE

AXA logo

If you don’t want to provide full medical details, AXA Health allows you to choose moratorium underwriting for your health insurance policy. With AXA moratorium underwriting, you will only be covered for a pre-existing condition after two years if:

‘you have been a member for two years in a row; and once you have been completely free of any medical treatment, medical advice, drugs or special diets relating to that condition for a consecutive two-year period’

AXA does have other terms and conditions for moratorium underwriting, and people with certain conditions will not be able to claim for other specified conditions.

If you have diabetes, you will not be able to claim for treatment for:

If you have been treated for high blood pressure, you will not be able to claim for treatment for:

Anyone who has been investigated or treated due to a Prostate Specific Antigen test will not be covered for any prostate conditions for at least two years.

AXA PPP Healthcare: Your Underwriting Choices – CLICK HERE

The Exeter logo

The Exeter provides a couple of options for moratorium underwriting for their ‘Health+’ customers. The two main options are:

Standard moratorium: As with most insurance companies, you won’t be covered for any pre-existing conditions that you have ‘had symptoms, medication, treatment or advice in connection with that condition in the five years before the start of your policy’. You may be covered for this condition after two years if you haven’t experienced any of the above for the first two years of your cover.

Continued moratorium: This is used when switching to The Exeter from another insurance company. It works similarly to standard moratorium, but it will account for any time with the previous insurer in your moratorium period. If you have completed one year of your moratorium period with your current insurer, you would only need to complete one year with The Exeter.

The Exeter Health+ Policy Document – CLICK HERE

WPA logo

Another insurance company that offers moratorium underwriting is WPA. They sometimes refer to this as ‘mori’ underwriting on their website. They also will allow you to ‘roll over’ your moratorium period from a previous health insurance company (continued moratorium).

WPA does note that they’re unlikely to end up covering pre-existing conditions that require long-term treatment, due to the two-year moratorium period. Their website states:

‘This is because the moratorium period starts each time you receive such treatment, so it’s unlikely you’ll ever have two consecutive years free of symptoms and/or treatment.’

WPA will however consider covering pre-existing conditions after the moratorium period, where they are unlikely to require ongoing care (e.g. a previous heart attack). An experienced health insurance expert can explain your options in more detail, so you understand exactly how this process works.

WPA Complete Health Policy Brochure – CLICK HERE

Freedom health insurance logo

Freedom health insurance allows its customers to choose between moratorium and full medical underwriting. With Freedom moratorium underwriting, you need to be symptom, treatment, and medication-free for two years after buying your policy for a pre-existing condition to be covered.

Similarly to WPA, Freedom states that chronic conditions are unlikely to be covered, as it is less likely for you to go a full two years without symptoms or treatment. Freedom will however pay out for treatment for new medical issues, to help support your health and well-being.

Freedom health insurance logo

National Friendly will allow their customers to apply using moratorium underwriting, if they don’t want to share their full medical history. Any medical conditions from within the last five years won’t be covered, but they could be covered in the future if you don’t:

  • Need any consultations, monitoring, or investigations for at least two years
  • Require any medication, treatment, or advice for at least two years

After this, you would be covered for this condition based on the terms and conditions that are explained within your policy documents.

National Friendly My PMI Policy Summary – CLICK HERE

Health Insurance provider reviews

It can be hard to work out which type of underwriting is right for you, which is why many people choose to apply through an experienced health insurance broker.

A health insurance broker will be able to explain all your policy options, so that you fully understand the application process and exactly what you are covered for. Insurance brokers will usually be able to find the cheapest quotes for you, as they will have easy access to quotes from a panel of the UK’s top health insurance companies.

For free health insurance advice, call 0800 009 6559 or CLICK HERE to fill in our online quote form.

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What is the average cost of health insurance UK?

One of the top questions that people ask about health insurance is, ‘how much does it cost on average per month?’. According to recent research taken in 2023, the average cost of a health insurance is £86 per month for a standard personal protection policy. Health insurance policies can vary dramatically based on your age and the type of cover that you need, as well as which insurance provider you choose.

Most core health insurance policies will provide a similar level of protection and coverage for private medical treatments. You can tailor your health insurance policy to suit your needs and your budget by changing the benefits and levels of cover that you receive.

Is health insurance worth it?

Health insurance is the same as most other personal protection policies that you can buy, it is down to your own personal preference and attitude to risk. The other major issue is whether you can afford to pay for health insurance every month because it can be expensive.

If you ever need to claim on your health insurance policy then the benefits can be life changing and even lifesaving. The medical treatments and care that is provided by the NHS in the UK is among the best in the world, especially for chronic illness. Unfortunately, it is a well-known fact that the NHS is struggling to meet demand and that the levels of private medical treatment are generally far superior to public health treatments.

Example: If you needed knee surgery then you would have to wait for months or even years on the NHS, whereas private health insurance will give you access to better treatment, leading specialists, and within weeks usually. Rehabilitation and therapies cover that are also provided by most health insurance policies can be invaluable, especially if you are self-employed for example.

Is private health insurance better than the NHS?

Currently, the biggest issue with the NHS is the waiting times for any consultations and access to treatments, because of how stretched its resources are. The NHS provides some of the best care in the world for chronic illnesses and diseases, such as diabetes, MS, epilepsy, and asthma.

Health insurance is designed to complement and support the treatment that you can receive on the National Health Service, as well as giving you access to specialists for other medical issues such as musculoskeletal issues and cancer treatment, which are also the top reasons for claims on health insurance cover.

The main issues with NHS treatment currently and reasons for people taking out health insurance:

  • Long waiting lists for consultations, results and treatment
  • Overcrowded hospitals
  • Lack of beds
  • Shortages of NHS nurses and doctors
  • Some treatments not available (especially cancer treatments)
  • Specialists only available on private health insurance
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What is the best health insurance UK?

There are lots of different policy options when considering health insurance as well as your choice of several main insurance providers. The other consideration is whether you don’t take out health insurance and opt for receiving treatment on the NHS or paying for treatment yourself as and when you need it.

We’re constantly reviewing the top health insurance companies in the UK to find out which provide the best service, value, products and treatments. Based on our most recent reviews we suggest the following as the best health insurance UK 2023:

  1. Aviva Healthcare Solutions (Trustpilot score: 4.1 out of 5.0)
  2. BUPA Health Insurance (Trustpilot score: 4.0 out of 5.0)
  3. Vitality Personal Healthcare (Trustpilot score: 3.9 out of 5.0)
  4. Exeter Health+ (Trustpilot score: 4.4 out of 5.0)
  5. AXA PPP (Trustpilot score: 4.1 out of 5.0)
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Best Private Health Insurance 2023 - iam|INSURED

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