On World Health Day, COVER editor takes stock of a health insurance market turned on its head
What would you have said if I had told you a month ago that all schools would be closed, the majority of us would be forced to work from home and the private health sector was to allocate its entire hospital capacity to the NHS?
The world we are living in today is not the same one we recently all knew and had so easily taken for granted.
Thus, World Health Day (Tuesday 7 April) gives us an opportunity to take stock of the unprecedented amount of change the health insurance industry has faced over the past few weeks.
The (at-cost) deal signed last month between the private health sector and the NHS to help fight coronavirus was, of course, a bolt from the blue (quite literally), but it's been ushered in as a necessary step to help save lives at a desperate time.
The move, which will allow the NHS to carry out some of the urgent operations and cancer treatments that might have been otherwise prevented by the pandemic, led Association of Medical Intermediaries and Insurers (AMII) chair Stuart Scullion to urge for flexibility; to ensure policyholders get value from their cover - and to avoid cancellations - while hospital treatment is less accessible.
Most private medical insurance (PMI) providers are drawing upon existing NHS cash benefits to help those hospitalised due to coronavirus, while The Exeter last week enhanced its offering with an additional benefit (capped at £10,000) for those receiving treatment not just for COVID-19.
Bupa has pledged to offer rebate to existing customers facing delayed treatment, while the pandemic has also brought the additional health services available through PMI policies into the spotlight.
One of the key aspects to really come into its own is the availability of remote GP services. A provision that had initially not taken off as quickly as many had expected, the option to talk to a doctor in an age of social-distancing has risen like a phoenix from the flames.
Medical Solutions, which has been delivering remote GP services for 20 years, has seen demand for its services increase 300% as a result of the pandemic. In an article written for COVER, one of the private remote GPs working for the firm describes this recent revolution as one that will change the way healthcare is administered going forward, even beyond coronavirus.
Mental health & wellbeing
Another key development in this brave new world is the radical impact it's had on our professional lives. Almost overnight businesses had to adapt to challenges of remote working.
Awareness around workplace mental health had been steadily growing, however no longer the need for self-care will be regarded as something that affects only some people. We all have to look after ourselves right now and there is a level of emphasis like never before on how employers manage the wellbeing of staff in the new environment.
This is where the group health insurance and cash plans can play a crucial role, with the offer of employee assistance programmes (EAPs) and counselling services, yet the challenge for brokers remains convincing clients (and their employees) not to cancel policies under the illusion that they are surplus to requirements at a time when nobody is in the office.
To help commemorate World Health Day, AXA PPP healthcare has provided a guide to remote working, which includes some much-needed practical tips to individuals and managers dealing with staff who at this time might feel isolated or under pressure and unable to cope.
With all that's going and the prospect of bleak few months ahead, it is important to remember that the coronavirus pandemic is not going to last forever.
This is why at COVER - using #NoVAD and related content - we will be looking forward to an occasion in the future when we will be celebrating ‘No More Virus Anymore Day', much like our forefathers did at the end of the Second World War on VE Day.
NoVAD is our industry's opportunity to reinforce that our industry is in fact a community of its own. We're not alone in this and many of us face the same challenges and by sharing our personal stories we can help offer a lifeboat to those who may be struggling while grinding away daily during lockdown and beyond.
Another key issue we'd like to shine a light on is how brokers, many of them working alone at home without the backing of a large firm, are reaching out and surviving at this time.
Send your home-made videos, brainwaves and inspirational thoughts to [email protected] and share them on social media using #NoVAD as we stand firm and fight the coronavirus as an industry together.
Adam Saville is editor of COVER
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