Benenden Private Healthcare: Is the low price worth it?


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Benenden was founded in 1905 in response to the tuberculosis pandemic. Through the years it expanded its membership to include those from the civil service, wives and children. Benenden has had a few different names in its time, ranging from 'Post Office Sanatorium Society' to 'Civil Service Sanatorium Society' before finally making a move to its hero brand 'Benenden' in 2015.

Benenden markets itself as an affordable alternative to private health insurance, and operates differently to health insurance plans offered by the likes of Bupa, Aviva and Vitality. What is particularly eye-catching about Benenden is its low price tag, but the important question concerns whether it's really worth skimping on cost.

In this review we'll explore Benenden Healthcare in more detail, including how it works, what is covered and how this cover is rated by both experts and customers alike.

In This Review

Benenden Healthcare: Overall Review

If you've researched health insurance before you'll likely have come across Benenden somewhere along the way.

Benenden has been in the business for over 115 years, and at present has have over 820,000 members so they have certainly gained in popularity. What is particularly attractive about Benenden is its low price point — in fact, it charges all of its members the same monthly cost of £11.90, regardless of age, location and medical history. You may be wondering: why is Benenden Healthcare so cheap?

Well, we'll get in the specifics of how they operate a little later but essentially Benenden Healthcare is not the same as private health insurance. They operate on a 'discretionary basis', meaning their services are provided based on the resources available. Simply put, their cover is not intended to be a replacement for private health insurance and is instead marketed as an affordable alternative.

So what do their customers and experts make of this alternative offer? When we take a look at ratings and reviews the picture is slightly blurry. Whilst they have earned an 'excellent' Trustpilot rating of 4.5 out of 5, they receive a disappointing 2.5 out of 5 based on ratings left on the customer feedback site Review Centre.

What is more, if we take a look at what the financial experts at Defaqto have to say, Benenden Healthcare has been awarded an extremely disappointing 1 out of 5 stars. This means their analysts deem it to be a basic offer, offering few benefits compared to the rest of the market.

Now, a 1 star Defaqto rating is far from ideal. However, as we have stated Benenden is not like other private health insurance providers making it hard to make a direct comparison. It's a bit like comparing apples and oranges! Their healthcare plan is not designed to work like private health insurance, so it certainly won't be appropriate for everyone. We have reviewed them within the realms of private health insurance so you can better understand how their plan differs to help you decide if perhaps it is more appropriate for your healthcare needs.

What Benenden does offer is affordable healthcare support for those looking to access services such as medical treatment and diagnostics. They aim to support the NHS when it is under pressure, rather than replicate its services. So when looking at reviews such as that from Defaqto, who bases their ratings on the benefits and limitations of a product, we would recommend taking it with a slight pinch of salt.

The aim of our review is to give you all the key pieces of information you need to determine whether Benenden Healthcare is right for you. We'll look at the level of cover, the benefits, cost and customer ratings in more detail.

Let's start with the benefits of opting for Benenden...

Why choose Benenden Healthcare?

Choosing Benenden comes with its benefits, most of which are financial in nature given the affordability of their cover. We've noted some of the key benefits below:

  • Simple and affordable — all members pay the same low price regardless of age, location and medical history
  • No commitments or annual contracts — Benenden offers its members the freedom to cancel their membership at any point with no strings attached and no cancellation fee
  • A variety of membership rewards — for example, discounts on gym memberships, travel and health and wellbeing offers
  • 24/7 GP and Mental health helpline
  • Health app and well-being hub

How does Benenden Healthcare work?

Benenden's healthcare model differs to traditional private health insurance that is offered by the likes of AXA, Bupa and Freedom. In fact, Benenden themselves state they are "not a medical insurer" and that their healthcare is "an affordable alternative to private health insurance".

So how is Benenden different?

Well, the key difference is that Benenden's plan works on a discretionary basis, meaning that access to services is dependent on the resources available through membership contributions. Essentially, membership fees are paid into a communal pot which benefits all of their members.

The provision of services depends on a variety of factors, for example NHS wait times and the type of treatment required.

This discretionary model is quite unusual in the private healthcare industry, but it explains why Benenden's premiums are significantly lower. In many cases you will need to demonstrate that your NHS wait time is longer than Benenden's threshold before you can discuss your case, and authorization of diagnosis and treatment services is dependent on this.

This is very different to traditional private health insurance, which covers the costs of eligible private treatment regardless of these wait times. In fact, Benenden doesn't cover many services offered by the NHS, such as care for cancer, brain and heart disease. Rather, their aim is to complement the NHS and not replicate it. Instead, their offer is focused on supporting members to obtain a diagnosis and access treatment.

This is an important distinction and you should think carefully about whether this healthcare model is appropriate for you. You are not afforded the same level of protection as private health insurance, and this discretionary model is affected by a variety of factors that may be outside of your control, the main one being NHS wait times. We'll take a closer look at what is and isn't covered later on, but it's important to keep in mind that Benenden's offer is very different to traditional private health insurance.

Customer Reviews and Ratings

Benenden reviews and ratings

Trustpilot Rating

4.5 out of 5

Review Centre Rating

2.5 out of 5^

Defaqto Rating

1 out of 5

^Note: this rating is based on only 82 reviews. Use as guidance only.

During our research we took a look at how experts and customers rated Benenden's cover. As you can see in the table above, it's quite a mixed bag.

Let's start with customer ratings. Benenden have earned an 'excellent' Trustpilot rating of 4.5 out of 5, and that's across over 3,700 reviews! Even better, over 75% of these reviews rate Benenden 5 stars out of 5, suggesting a very smooth and positive customer experience overall.

Now, when we take a look at the Review Centre rating, we see Benenden earns a disappointing 2.5 out of 5. It's important to take this with a pinch of salt, as this rating is based on only 82 customer reviews so may be less reliable than the Trustpilot rating. Overall, it appears that customers generally have a positive experience.

If we look at how the experts rate Benenden, we see that Defaqto analysts rate their cover only 1 stars out of 5. If we were reviewing a more typical private health insurance plan such as those offered by Saga, Vitality or The Exeter, this would most certainly be cause for concern. However in this case Benenden does not claim that their cover is a replacement for private health insurance. This is why, in terms of cover, it under-performs compared to these big name insurers.

Their offer is unique and won't suit everyone. If you're simply looking for support in accessing healthcare services, Benenden may be the insurer for you. If you are looking for a traditional private health insurance plan that offers you more protection then we'd recommend looking elsewhere. However, know that this will likely cost you more than what Benenden has to offer!

What does Benenden Healthcare do well?

As we've mentioned, Benenden's different approach might not suit everybody. However, there are plenty of customers out there who have had an extremely positive experience with them. We spent some time sifting through these reviews and have identified some key standout areas that Benenden appear to perform well in.

Ultimately, Benenden excel at what they claim is their goal — to support their members in accessing healthcare services when they might not otherwise be able to, due to NHS pressures. Others have also praised them on their knowledgeable and attentive customer service advisors as well as their consultants, who have helped fast-track their route to accessing treatment.

"I've been a member for 20+ and during that time I've had the need to call on Benenden several times, when the NHS waiting period has been excessive. They listen and are understanding and have always helped if they can. It is reassuring to know that Benenden are there in your time of need"

"A wonderful experience from start to finish! An excellent route to diagnostic medical consultation in an affordable, efficient and professional manner"

"Caring & efficient facilities at excellent cost.Polite, knowledgeable & helpful staff. Benenden Hospital is clean & modern, with minimal waiting & more helpful staff."

"Excellent help from 24/7 GP. His report was influential in getting me the help I needed following a bad fall. Benenden also helped with physio as there is long waiting time with NHS"

What could Benenden Healthcare improve?

During our research we found the overwhelming majority of reviews to be positive. However, we did notice some negative feedback as well which is important to take into account.

Some members were frustrated over the limitations of the policy cover in terms of treatments and available consultants. There were also some who expressed they were disappointed with the conflicting advice they received from different customer advisors. It's not uncommon for there to be confusion over what is and isn't covered by an insurance policy. Given the uniqueness of Benenden's healthcare offer it is possible that some customers believe their plan is more similar to private health insurance then it actually is.

Of course, the below experiences may very well be the fault of Benenden. If this is the case then it's certainly something to keep in mind, although this can and does happen with other insurers too. What we would say is to read Benenden's policy documents carefully. This product is not intended to be an alternative to private health insurance, and by reading these documents carefully prior to signing a formal agreement you could save yourself a lot of hassle further down the line by knowing exactly what support and cover you have.

"Despite my treatment being on their approved procedures list, I have been repeatedly denied the help I need. I have been told due to my anxiety that my case is too complex to deal with. I cannot now seek help from any other healthcare insurer due to this being a ‘pre-existing condition’ because I have seen a consultant for this issue in the past month."

"None of the people who could treat me were covered by Benenden, who were unable to provide me with a suitable clinician - I had to pay £140 for an initial consultation"

"Contradictory advice from several advisors today which took up a great deal of time and was very distressing. Each advisor seems to give different advice"

"They claim they pay for diagnosis, but won't even help me get a diagnosis in order to help with something that leaves me unable to talk to anyone due to extreme breathlessness?"

How much is Benenden Healthcare?

Private health insurance quote comparison for a 35 year old male non smoker (£month)

WPA (Elite cover)

£83^ (£500 excess)

General & Medical (Elite cover)

£70 (£500 excess

Aviva (Full cover)

£48 (£200 excess)

General & Medical (Lifestyle cover)

£42 (£500 excess)

Freedom (Elite cover)

£41 (£500 excess)

The Exeter

£37 (£500 excess)

AXA

£36 (£500 excess)

Bupa (Comprehensive)

£36 (£500 excess)

Vitality

£35 (£500 excess)

WPA (Premier cover)

£31^ (£500 excess)

Aviva (Limited cover)

£28 (£200 excess)

General & Medical (Everyday cover)

£28 (£500 excess)

Bupa (Treatment and Care)

£28 (£500 excess)

Freedom (Essentials cover)

£22 (with £100 compulsory excess and £500 optional)

General & Medical (Essentials cover)

£21 (£500 excess)

WPA (Essentials cover^)

£13

Benenden

£12

^note: these quotes reflect the default offer of a 25% first year discount, available at the time of writing

The quotes in the above table reflect the profile of a 35-year old non-smoking person from a mid-sized town in the UK, with no prior health conditions. These figures are intended to be used as a guide only, and any quotes you receive may be more or less than those above depending on your own circumstances.

As you can see above, Benenden is the cheapest of all the quotes we received, at around £12 per month (we have rounded up from £11.90!). What is more, this cost is fixed and does not change with age, number of claims or other factors. But as we've stated many times, the reason for the low price is due to the 'discretionary basis' with which they operate which is very different to traditional private health insurance.

Ultimately, whether this plan is right for you depends on your healthcare needs. There are many limitations to Benenden's cover, but for those wanting support to access services when necessary, this may suit you just fine so may be ideal for someone who has minimal concerns for their health.

If you're someone looking for additional protection in the event of the unexpected, and want timely access to private healthcare services then you may be better off looking at private health insurance plans offered by the likes of WPA and General & Medical. These plans offer this additional cover and peace of mind at a cost that won't break the bank.

We would strongly recommend prioritizing cover over cost — yes Benenden's low price is very attractive, but you need to ask yourself whether this cover is right for your needs. Your health is incredibly important and is not a decision to be taking lightly.

As we've mentioned, there are other cost-effective plans on the market that may not be the most comprehensive, but for a similar cost will offer you enhanced protection when you need it most.

What is and isn't covered?

Benenden's model gives you access to some benefits from day one of your membership before giving you access to their full range of services after six months.

We've broken these down for you below and detailed what is and isn't covered by Benenden. Note these are not exhaustive, and the full terms of Benenden's cover is detailed in their policy documentation which we'd encourage you to take a look at.

Click the buttons below to find out more about Benenden's cover!

Benefits that are available from day one of your membership:

What is included?

  • GP telephone consultation's available 24/7
  • GP video consultations available 8am-10pm every day (except Xmas day)
  • GP consultations for a family member
  • GP's can offer private prescriptions for medication where clinically appropriate (i.e., prescriptions you must pay for)
  • Overseas access


What isn't covered?

  • Clinical triage prior to a consultation, therefore this service is not intended for emergencies or urgent care needs
  • Referrals to access other health care services provided by Benenden
  • Ongoing treatment, repeat prescriptions, investigations or antenatal care
  • State funded or NHS exemptions for prescriptions are not covered
  • Overseas prescriptions

What is included?

  • 24/7 access to speak to a counsellor
  • Access when you are overseas


What isn't covered?

  • Ongoing care or support for long-term mental health conditions or those requiring higher intensity therapies

What is included?

  • Guidance and support with arranging both short and long-term adult care, including information about state funding, the workings of the NHS and social services and selecting the best provider
  • Special needs support service if support is required by you or you're the parent or guardian of a child with special needs (e.g., ADHD). This includes advice and information on funding, strategies, the rights of parents and carers and care options


What isn't included?

  • Benenden does not cover the cost of any care that may be required. It is designed to help you understand how the system works and the potential costs


Benefits that are available after six months of membership:

What is included?

  • Authorized consultations with an appropriate consultant as well as diagnostic tests (e.g., scans, x-rays) and any other diagnostic costs up to a limit of £1,800


What isn't covered?

  • Any unauthorized diagnostic costs or any costs over the value of £1,800
  • Any expenses incurred more than six months after initial authorization
  • Any services relating to the same medical condition on the same body area within two years of the first authorized support
  • Costs related to the monitoring of an ongoing condition
  • Benenden will only authorize assistance for one set of health concerns at any one time
  • Costs for diagnostics related to cosmetic concerns, complementary therapy or second opinion consultations. There are some other instances that are further excluded, refer to Benenden's 'Guide to Cover' for full details

What is included?

  • The full cost of any procedure approved by Benenden, including fees relating to accommodation, nursing, operating theatres, surgeons and anaesthetics. This also includes dressings, pre-operative tests and post-operative physiotherapy


What isn't covered?

  • Any procedure not on Benenden's approved procedures list. This includes procedures such as brain related surgery, acute care, cosmetic surgery and cancer related surgery
  • Treatments not taking place within the eight weeks after initial authorization
  • Costs related to the monitoring of an ongoing condition
  • Benenden will only authorize assistance for one set of health concerns at any one time

What is included?

  • Guided self-management exercise, which may be accessible through an Online Digital Rehabilitation programme (via tablet, computer or mobile app) or via paper-based postal delivery
  • Virtual or face-to-face physiotherapy, and Benenden may authorize up to six sessions per case


What isn't covered?

  • Costs related to the monitoring of an ongoing condition
  • Benenden will only authorize assistance for one set of health concerns at any one time
  • Any services relating to the same medical condition on the same body area within two years of the first authorized support
  • Any support for your condition that cannot be treated by guided self-management or within six-sessions

What is included?

  • Up to six sessions of structured wellbeing counselling. This may be delivered face-to-face, phone or video call
  • Up to six session of supported self help in which you receive a set of supportive materials and exercises to complete


What isn't covered?

  • Ongoing care and support for severe or long-term mental health conditions, or where higher intensity therapies are required
  • The initiation, monitoring or review of mental health medication
  • Support for those under the age of 11
  • Benenden does not provide support if you're also receiving additional mental health support from another service (e.g., NHS mental health services)

What is included?

  • Access to a dedicated nurse for ongoing telephone support. This support will be tailored to your needs and may include emotional support, understanding your diagnosis, practical advice and support with returning to work
  • If your nurse identifies a gap in your support, they may further support you by arranging and paying for services at their clinical discretion. For example, support delivered by a third party, specialized clothing and prostheses, and signpost you to local and national charities, organizations and support groups, including the Benenden Charitable Trust


What isn't covered?

  • Cancer support that relates to the same condition on the same body area within two years of Benenden first authorizing support
  • Support is not available for basal cell carcinomas

How to request Benenden Healthcare services

There are a few ways you can request support from Benenden Healthcare. There are two key telephone numbers you'll need to know:

  • 0800 414 8247 — for support from the 24/7 GP and mental health helpline and mental health support
  • 0800 414 8100 — for support from any other Benenden healthcare service

For some services, such as medical diagnosis and treatment, you'll need to check whether your wait time is over the specified length. You can check NHS wait times here. You may also need to provide your GP referral letter so be sure not to lose this! Once Benenden has all the necessary information, they will decide whether or not to authorize your request. Full details of how to request services can be found in Benenden's guide to their services.

Benenden Healthcare: Discounts and Savings

You can access many of the benefits and manage your membership through the Benenden Health App. Some of the benefits on offer include:

  • Benenden has partnered with various brands to provide access to additional services to support your wellbeing — this includes savings on self-funded treatments, travel insurance and health cash plans
  • Benenden offer members access to their rewards portal 'My Benenden Rewards' — members can benefit from savings on gym memberships, shopping, travel, health and wellbeing offers and more
  • Access to Benenden's Well-being Hub — this gives you immediate access to a variety e-learning programmes, classes and advice to support your overall well-being

FAQ's

Anyone can join Benenden Healthcare and no pre-existing conditions are excluded on joining. This is because Benenden compliment the work carried out by the NHS, rather than traditional private health insurance that covers the cost of private treatment.

From our research we were unable to find Benenden on health insurance comparison sites. This is likely because Benenden Healthcare is not the same as traditional private health insurance and also because they have a fixed monthly cost. You can purchase Benenden direct through their website.

Yes, it is set at £11.90 per person, per month regardless of age, medical or claims history. This is reviewed annually by Benenden.

Benenden states two reasons behind this:

  • By complimenting, rather than replicating, the NHS: their aim is support you in achieving a diagnosis or accessing treatment. They don't replicate many services such as cancer, brain and heart disease care. They operate on a discretionary basis meaning support from their services is based on the resources available.
  • Fees are paid into a communal pot, so all members can benefit: memberships are managed carefully to ensure that assistance is available to members who require support.
No. Benenden provide their services on a discretionary basis, meaning they are dependent on the resources available. Benenden healthcare is an affordable alternative to private health insurance, which is an insurance policy that covers the cost of private medical care.
No, you are free to cancel at any point and no administration fee will be charged. You have 14 days from the day you receive your membership pack to cancel your membership. Any payments you have made in this time will be refunded.

If you choose to cancel after this 14-day period your cover will cease at the end of the month in which the cancellation is received. If you have paid your membership contribution annually in advance and wish to cancel your membership, your membership will cease at the end of the month in which Benenden receives your cancellation and you will be reimbursed for the cost of the number of full months remaining.

No — though you will need to answer some basic questions concerning your age, sex and address. However, this does not affect the monthly cost of their healthcare, and all members pay the same price of £11.90 per month.

You can access any service listed on Benenden's national network of over 500 facilities and 32 specialist hospitals which includes five hospitals for paediatric services.

You can find your nearest treatment hospital here.

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