Roshani Hill: Private medical insurance market adapted to support employees during pandemic

A landmark deal was struck between the private health sector and NHS England in March 2020 to help the national effort to fight Covid-19 (Coronavirus). Freeing up capacity in private hospitals at that point in time was the right thing to do. But what did these changes mean for medical insurance customers, including the 3.5 million employees who are part of corporate medical insurance plans in the UK?

Throughout this time, insurers adapted to ensure customers continued to be supported and benefited from their medical insurance plans. Patient safety is paramount for medical insurers, so measures were put in place to ensure their customers continued to get the best service possible in this unprecedented time.

Urgent private treatment continued for critical illnesses like cancer and cardiology. While non-urgent treatment was deferred temporarily to support the Covid-19 crisis, consultations and pre-authorisations for diagnostic, outpatient and surgical treatment continued remotely so customers could have access to primary care and be treated as soon as it was safe to do so. Technology such as voice assistants, webchat and chatbots also provided continuous care to many customers, and improved remote access to a specialist consultation without the need for a GP referral.

But it was not just physical health that insurers have been able to help with during the crisis. Mental health and wellbeing have been widely talked about during this unprecedented time. Health insurers have helped to alleviate the pressure on the NHS and play their part by providing holistic mental health services and focusing more on preventive measures by improving their virtual services, such as offering online healthcare resources and counselling.

The experience of the Covid-19 pandemic has reminded us more than ever that our health is something we should never take for granted. As we continue to emerge from lockdown, the benefits of medical insurance will be more important than ever. Staff retention and a happier, healthier and more engaged workforce are just some of the benefits to employers when offering medical insurance to employees.

As infections of Covid-19 have decreased, there are now clear signs that treatment is opening back up and returning to normal. With predictions that 10 million people will be on NHS waiting lists by the end of the year, continuing to offer medical insurance to employees will ensure they get access to a speedy and wide range of medical treatments and support which will now be more important than ever.

Roshani Hill is assistant director, head of health and protection policy at the Association of British Insurers (ABI)