The Covid-19 pandemic has caused huge disruption in the private medical insurance industry for both corporates and their employees. To respond to this rapidly changing landscape, insurers are working behind the scenes to ensure members continue to receive uninterrupted, streamlined services.
PMI in the UK
Following the requisitioning of most private UK hospitals for NHS use, PMI has been perceived by many as obsolete. But PMI policies continue to provide value to members, even without access to private treatment. Additional services such as digital GP services and mental health counselling through employee assistance programmes (EAPs) can be invaluable.
Insurers are working hard to ensure the majority of cover is still available through online, telephone or video consultations with specialists. AXA PPP in particular, have launched a Clinical Support Centre, available until the end of the crisis, which gives members access to specialists including cardiologist, gastroenterologists, orthopaedics and oncologists from the safety of their own home. Those already awaiting private treatment will have access to ‘care while you wait’ service which provides support for managing symptoms through pain relief or online physiotherapy.
For members who cannot receive medical treatment during this time, AXA PPP have confirmed treatment will still be authorised and members will receive treatment as soon as private facilities and resources become available again.
Some health insurers including Vitality and Bupa are also offering NHS cash benefits for members who receive in-patient hospital treatment for Covid-19. AXA PPP too, have increased their standard NHS cash benefit by an additional £100/night for any inpatient including non-Covid-19 and Covid-19-related conditions.
Bupa are also offering rebate to customers facing delayed healthcare and have expanded their existing services to include digital online consultations, including remote GP service through Babylon and have set up a dedicated Bupa Covid-19 online hub.
Health Shield meanwhile are waiving pandemic exclusion on hospitalisation cover and cover for specialist remote consultations. They’ve also set up two specialist Covid-19 hubs – one with support and guidance for adults and one for children.
Channel Islands provision
Healthcare in the Channel Islands is different to the rest of the UK making the current crisis slightly more difficult to navigate. Both Jersey and Guernsey have separate healthcare systems although they do have reciprocal health agreements to some extent, with several countries, including the UK.
Many residents use private healthcare facilities in the UK but with lockdown in place, travel in and out of the UK is limited to very urgent medical care.
AXA Global, one of the largest insurance providers in the Channel Islands have recently extended their Virtual GP offering to any AXA Global Islands Plan client and will be offered free of charge until 30th June 2020.
In addition, with most UK private treatment facilities offering specialist consultations and assessments via telephone, video or online, many are now looking at providing these services to Channel Island policyholders.
“This will be a huge benefit to all private medical insurance policy holders, but particularly to offshore residents who may otherwise struggle to travel to the UK in the coming months,” says Gemma Milford, head of group health at IHC.
The international stage
According to David Heppard, head of international at IHC, all international medical insurance providers have confirmed that treatment for Covid-19 will be covered under existing policies. “Members on international health plans can claim for Covid-19 treatment in line with their usual terms, conditions and underwriting. However, many countries are treating Covid-19 patients in state hospitals only, so there is likely to be a limit on private treatment for the virus,” he says.
Many clients have raised concerns around evacuating employees with Covid-19, but the general response so far has been to stay ‘in-country’ and use the state system to provide necessary care: it would be impossible to evacuate due to border closures around the world.
As ever, members are encouraged to follow local country guidelines, but for those experiencing symptoms or have any questions or concerns, they should engage with their provider’s Virtual Doctor tool in the first instance. This tool is run by an independent company affiliated with the insurer, such as Teladoc or Doctor on Demand.
Members can easily check their policy benefits in their membership handbooks which has now been made available to view online via provider’s online portals and which now includes access to ‘Covid-19 confirmation of cover’.
For clients needing assistance with internal communications to their overseas-based employees and dependants, many insurers are now able to provide supporting documentation and directives although they are unable to provide bespoke communication.
‘Business as usual’ for Group Risk
Sandra Vaughan, head of group risk at IHC says group risk remains ‘business as usual’, with most insurers continuing to offer EAP services and some with all-inclusive virtual GP tools.
All insurers are covering their group protection benefits offering too, with total annual salary paid from the day prior to being put on furlough status. Sabbatical or a reduction in salary due to Covid-19 are also covered. This is subject to continuous review as the situation develops and changes.