Buying insurance means that you pay a sum of money to an insurance provider, who in return promises to provide a financial pay-out if something bad happens to you or the thing you have insured.
Why might I need insurance cover?
Many people find that buying insurance provides financial security and peace of mind. For example, you could get insurance to cover medical costs in case you become unwell, or travel insurance in case you lose your passport or something is stolen while you're on holiday. There are lots of different types of insurance to cover a wide range of situations – and some types of insurance are compulsory, like car insurance.
See our page on different types of insurance for more information.
How does insurance cover work?
Getting insurance can sometimes feel complicated, but it usually works like this:
- The insurance provider will ask you some assessment questions, for example about your personal circumstances and what you want to insure.
- Once you have answered the questions, you will get a quote from the insurance company. This gives you an idea of how much money they will charge you for your insurance. This is generally a rough figure, and may change once you answer more detailed questions about your situation. It's a good idea to get a few quotes and compare them before you decide who you want to go with.
- If the company agrees to insure you, they will send you an insurance policy – this is the document that outlines the details of your agreement with the company, including the exact circumstances in which they will or won't pay out money, and how much money they will pay.
- Once you have bought your insurance, you are covered; if something happens to you or the thing you have insured, you can make a claim.
- If you make a claim, the insurance provider will assess it and decide whether or not it's valid.
- If they agree that you have a valid claim (based on the details of your insurance policy), they will then pay out the agreed amount of money.
- If it turns out that you never need to make a claim, the insurance provider keeps the money you have paid for your insurance.
What is an insurance premium?
The amount you pay the insurance company is called your insurance premium. If you have a mental health problem, you may find that you are asked to pay a higher premium than someone who doesn't. This is because the insurance company thinks you are more likely to make a claim on your insurance. For more information on this, see our pages on facing challenges to getting insurance and your rights.
How could my mental health problem affect my insurance?
Having a mental health problem can sometimes mean that you face certain challenges to getting insurance, but there are lots of things you can do to feel more in control:
Remember: all insurance providers have to comply with regulations to make sure they make fair assessments about who to cover, how much to charge, and when to pay out for a claim. You can find more information about these guidelines on the Association of British Insurers (ABI) website.
This information was published in August 2015. We will revise it in 2018.