Advisers weigh in on why prevention is better than cure when it comes to PMI

Sponsored by Vitality

clock • 4 min read
Advisers weigh in on why prevention is better than cure when it comes to PMI

Incentivising private medical insurance (PMI) planholders to take action that can lengthen their ‘healthspan’, or the number of years they can enjoy life in good health, adds a welcome “positive aspect” to this type of cover, advisers say

"The focus of linking a healthy lifestyle directly to the cost of premiums clearly shows that this reduces your risk of ill health, thus allowing you [my client] to pay lower premiums," says Ian Sawyer, director at adviser firm Assured Futures. "As a broker, this really helps to provide a positive aspect to insurance that is too often unfairly maligned by consumers."

His comments follow the release of new research from Vitality Research Institute[1], highlighting how small habitual lifestyle changes can add years to our ‘healthspan' - which, worryingly, on average, is around a decade shorter than our lifespan[2].

So what is ‘healthspan'? It's the number of years we live in good health, which according to the insurer, is not increasing at the same rate as our lifespan. Ultimately, as we are living longer, our quality of life is suffering as a result.

Longer lives - but at what cost?

More sophisticated healthcare practices are pushing average life expectancy in the UK today to an impressive 81 years, according to the World Bank[3]. However, many of those currently in their 70s and 80s are living with debilitating health conditions.

Vitality's research reveals that people are living a greater proportion of their lives in ill-health than they were 30 years ago. In the UK, people are living on average 12 years in poor health - 14% longer than in 1990 and worse than the global average.

"Over the last 30 years, scientific change has driven increases in lifespan," says Global Vitality Chief Executive Adrian Gore. "Improving ‘healthspan' globally will require a greater focus on behaviour change - with benefits for individuals, the economy, and society."

Lasting impacts - both social and financial

Not only is this current trend bad for individuals, but also for businesses and broader society. Around 40% of UK productivity loss - equivalent to £39bn a year - is due to employees' unhealthy lifestyle behaviours and poor mental wellbeing[4].

And according to the new research, people are spending longer in ill-health as a result of chronic diseases driven by unhealthy choices and lifestyle factors, such as diabetes, musculoskeletal conditions and mental health, while certain risk factors like high BMI are increasing for younger ages.

Current healthcare strategies prioritise the treatment of illness when it occurs, with just 5% of healthcare spend in the UK going towards prevention. This is despite nearly 40% of the UK's total disease burden (premature death and disability) being attributable to poor lifestyle choices and heightened metabolic risk.

As well as pointing to the importance of prevention, the report highlights how physical activity and more nutritious diets can improve the number of years we spend in better health. An approach that can be built into more innovative forms of private medical insurance through, for example, offering rewards and benefits and lower priced premium pricing for those who engage in healthy behaviour. "Incentivising positive lifestyle changes can have a profound impact on the health of individuals and reduce the burden on health services," adds Gore.

Individual action - getting employers on board

As well as supporting the lifestyles of individuals on a health insurance plan, a proactive approach to promoting and rewarding healthy lifestyles can also benefit the UK workforce too. Many employers have wellbeing programmes designed to make employees happier, healthier, and therefore more productive.

Paul Roberts, senior consultant at IHC Employee Benefits, agrees that ill-health prevention and positive lifestyle choices can be a good place to start, when discussing the benefits of incentivising healthy behaviour.

"The subject of living longer, healthier lives can easily be brought up with corporate clients, but not necessarily using those exact words," he says. "Corporate clients tend to talk more around wellbeing and their policies, which can include benefits to support employee activities."

With this in mind, PMI that has prevention baked into its proposition - in a way that helps to drive healthy behaviour -  is poised to not only improve the ‘healthspan' of individuals and employees, it can deliver value to all involved, including intermediaries. "I hope that all insurers continue to develop wellness and additional services, as a healthy client base is just as important as a healthy workforce," Sawyer concludes.

 

Insights for this article were originally taken from Vitality Insights Hub



[1] Maximising quality of life: A primer on healthspan and lifespan - Vitality Research Institute

[2] https://vitality.international/our-insights/news/pioneering-algorithm-calculates-the-number-of-years-individuals-can-expect-to-live-in-good-health.html

[3] https://data.worldbank.org/country/GB

[4] Britain's Healthiest Workplace 2019, Vitality and RAND Europe

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