The monumental deal signed last month between the private health sector and the NHS to help fight coronavirus will see enhanced NHS cash benefits, online clinical centres, virtual GPs and care pathways.
However 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, has forced health insurers to find ways to add value to polices.
At the time, Association of Medical Intermediaries and Insurers (AMII) chair Stuart Scullion urged for flexibility; to ensure policyholders still benefit from their cover - and to avoid cancellations - while hospital treatment is less accessible.
Some PMI insurers are pledging 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."
Most private medical insurance (PMI) providers are drawing upon existing NHS cash benefits to help those hospitalised due to coronavirus, with others are enhancing their offering with an additional benefits for those receiving treatment not just for covid-19.
Some PMI insurers are pledging 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.
Virtual GP services, extra care pathways and online clinical centres have become a go-to for health insurers to ensure customers, especially those needing treatment, can get support at this times.
These are the key changes that have been made so far.
AXA PPP healthcare
On 8 April, AXA PPP announced it has added a clinical support centre to provide specialist consultations during covid-19.
It has also made a commitment to "assess and adjust" for the impact of delayed treatment due to the pandemic. It has committed to appointing an independent auditor to review data in order to transparently account for treatment delays
Complementary new services and value enhancements for members and additional wellbeing have also been added for members.
AXA PPP healthcare has boosted NHS cash payment benefits by £100 per night for UK individual and SME members for NHS in-patient treatment or NHS cancer radiotherapy or chemotherapy that would have been covered on policies - from 1 April 2020 for 12 months. This will also apply to members who are hospitalised as a result of covid-19.
It is offering unlimited virtual GP service free of charge to UK individual and SME members through [email protected], provided by Doctor Care Anywhere.
Individual and SME members using the Clinical Support Centre will have policy excesses, and benefit limits or restrictions on outpatient services waived during the crisis period for consultations and diagnostics arranged by the service.
To support mental health and wellbeing, the health insurer is offering free access (up to six months for individual and SME members) to the Thrive app, free online workouts and yoga and online access to ‘Health Unlocked', as well as discounts to services from AXA Active Plus
Full details of AXA PPP's covid-19 commitments can be found here.
On 3 April, Bupa pledged to offer rebate to customers facing postponed healthcare due to the pandemic.
While urgent care, such as cancer treatment, will continue, non-urgent hospital procedures are being put on hold. However, Bupa said it expects there will be an overall reduction for delayed treatments.
The health insurer has written to its customers to inform them of its new commitment, and it plans to commission a third-party review to ensure that what it does is "fair and reasonable" across its different customer groups.
Bupa said it has expanded its services to include telephone and video consultations with nurses, GPs and consultants, as well as specialist help for physiotherapy and mental health, right through to chemotherapy at home for cancer patients.
Bupa said calls to its AnyTime HealthLine have more than doubled, while the digital GP service provided by Babylon has been made available to all its customers with a new coronavirus care assistant feature.
A dedicated Bupa covid-19 online hub has also been added.
The Exeter has pledged to pay back surplus premium resulting from a reduction in claims to its private medical insurance (PMI) members.
On Friday 17 April, The Exeter said: "We expect that, ultimately, the current situation will result in The Exeter paying less in claims than expected during 2020."
It continued: "Today we make the commitment to you that any surplus resulting from a reduction in claims will be returned our members. At this stage we do not know how much this is likely to be, but once the full impact of the covid-19 outbreak is clear, we will be able to review the situation and determine the best way to do this."
The Exeter has also opened a new clinical support centre for its health insurance customers. The Exeter said members using the service will not pay any policy excessed and any no claims discounts will not be affected, nor will outpatient benefits for consultations and diagnostics. However, normal policy limits will apply to any treatments that result from it.
On April 1, The Exeter announced that, for a minimum of three months, it is offering an enhanced cash benefit of £500 per night to members who are treated without charge in either an NHS or private setting, for any eligible condition including covid-19.
This benefit is capped at £10,000 and will not affect any no claims discount, excess, available cash benefit or overall policy benefit limits. It applies to both new and existing policies.
Remote GP consultations, as well as mental health, physiotherapy, nutritional and lifestyle support, are available via its HealthWise app.
From 20 March 2020, a new covid-19 cashback benefit was added for members who require a hospital stay due to coronavirus. All VitalityHealth insurance members hospitalised due to covid-19 are eligible to claim following an NHS hospital stay:
- Days one to eight - £250 per day.
- Day nine onwards - £500 per day. A person with a stay lasting nine days or longer is more likely to need critical care for COVID-19, based on the latest evidence and research.
- This is subject to a maximum of £5,000 overall.
This benefit is now available to all current members who have a Personal Healthcare (PHC), Business Healthcare (BHC) or Corporate Healthcare (CHC) plan with the benefit of Core Cover, for any admissions up to 30 June 2020. It is also available to new customers subject to a one-month waiting period.
Following the NHS deal, VitalityHealth said: "We are working closely with our hospital partners to continue to deliver treatment where possible for you, particularly within urgent care pathways. Furthermore, we are adapting our benefits and services to make greater use of technology and remote consultations where clinically appropriate, in line with government advice around social distancing and the need to reduce contact."
WPA's large corporate, small-to-medium enterprises and retail customers, as well as staff, have been given unlimited access to Medical Solutions' remote GP service.
The insurer has also expanded its benefits to cover telephone and video consultations with healthcare providers, including with specialists and therapists.
In a letter to policyholders, it has also reminded customers that it will provide NHS hospital cash benefits and will provide options for customers in financial difficulty to maintain their policy and protect their underwriting.
Through the Medical Solutions partnership WPA customers will be able to use the GP helpline service for advice and treatment for health and medical concerns at no extra cost, including a private prescription service and referrals if required.
WPA advised customers not to contact its remote GP service if they are experiencing coronavirus symptoms.
The full version of this article was published by COVER Magazine on 21 April 2020 under the headline "What changes have PMI insurers made due to COVID-19?"