Everything you need to know from leading industry experts Usay Compare
It may be easy in more prosperous times, to dismiss Private Medical Insurance as an unnecessary expense, particularly for a country with a National Health Service which is free at point of use and moreover for the younger generation. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic develops at an increasing rate, private health insurance experts and market leaders, Usay Compare, are – perhaps unsurprisingly – experiencing an unprecedented increase in people purchasing Private Medical Insurance and a slightly lower average age demographic from February to March 2020. Usay Compare’s experts breakdown the benefits their community of policyholders are enjoying, and the reassurances available to new clients at such a worrying time.
Firstly, it is important to understand how private medical insurance, also known as health insurance or ‘PMI’ (henceforth here) works. It does not compete with the NHS; it complements and supports it, to achieve reduced waiting times and access to additional treatments and medications. Whilst the treatment of a severe case of COVID-19 itself is an emergency - which would only ever be treated by the NHS - there are cashback benefits emerging, as well as the many other reassuring benefits that private medical insurance brings. Policies vary between providers and take account of the individual’s preferences and requirements but we take a look below at some common benefits policyholders will be depending on through the unchartered waters ahead.
Various providers are now confirming how their policy can specifically be used in the event they contract coronavirus. For example Vitality have just announced: “a new COVID-19 Cashback benefit will be available for Vilality health insurance members who require a hospital stay due to Coronavirus.” This will consist of £250 per day from day 1 – 8 and £500 per day following that, up to a totalof £5000. 
Conditions arising following on from a case of COVID-19 are not experiencing any exclusions either, for example respiratory issues six months down the line could be treated on your PMI policy.
The vast majority of COVID-19 patients will have relatively mild symptoms and make a full recovery, but it goes without saying the better your existing health and the stronger your immune system, the more relaxed you are probably feeling about the virus. PMI policies offer access to the best treatments and medications available, without delay, ensuring policyholders’ overall health and wellbeing are kept optimal to deal with any such emergencies that may arise. All aspects of health and wellbeing can be covered; including dental care, physiotherapy and mental health. The Journal of Sport and Health Science have clearly evidenced “thecompelling link between physical activity and the body’s defence system” , and in turn, policy providers support healthy lifestyle choices. Many policies encourage and reward policyholders for getting active and prioritising their health with rewards. Normally these include such things as gym memberships, fitness tracking watches and lifestyle treats to keep you on track. In the current lockdown, insurance providers have promptly altered their benefits to ensure they are relevant and available to use with perks such as Amazon Prime subscriptions featuring also.
One of the key benefits PMI policyholders enjoy is avoiding NHS waiting times. Despite the coronavirus, The Health Foundation’s ‘NHS performance and Waiting Times’ report highlighted, “the worst performance against waiting times targets since the targets were set.” This includes, “the highest proportion of people waiting over 18 weeks for non-urgent (but essential) hospital treatment since 2008.” 
Sir Simon Stevens, Head of the NHS announced on Tuesday (17th March) that they will be; “suspending elective non-urgent surgery”, with an assumption that it will be “suspended everywhere from 15 April at the latest for at least three months.” The ramifications upon future NHS waiting times are of course yet to be seen, but no doubt will be considerable. Whilst the height of the pandemic will of course be unprecedented times, and as we have heard, will see the private sector supporting the NHS in whatever way it can to spare as many lives as possible. When the worst does pass however, waiting times for treatments like hip and knee replacements will be vastly better for those with private cover.
Most health insurance policy providers offer an online consultation service with a GP. With inevitable non-Corona-related illnesses continuing throughout the pandemic; countered with the worry of increased exposure to the virus upon visiting your surgery in person, it is a fantastic benefit and peace of mind to know you can investigate any symptoms with your GP from the comfort of your own home, without unnecessary additional risk of exposure, especially for high-risk categories.
Social distancing, solitary confinement, cancelling of social events and the inevitable financial instability are a concerning concoction for everyone’s mental health and wellbeing. Many of the insurers we work with offer simple and fast access to Mental Health support and treatment. In these times, the option of electronic and telephone based counselling is incredibly important, enabling a high level of support to be maintained.
For PMI patients being treated for existing conditions such as cancer, they are able to continue to benefit from the comfort of private hospitals with their own, en-suite rooms and a la carte menu options.
We will certainly face trying times as individuals, families and nations through the coming weeks and months, but insurance is intended for such trying times and our team of expert advisors will still be on the end of the phone to offer the help and support you need; to ensure our families and loved ones have the best protection possible.
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