Advisers have praised insurers for the speed at which they have reacted to the Covid crisis, by offering flexible benefits, premium holidays and potential rebates.
PCH managing director Claire Ginnelly says the industry has responded quickly across the board, both in terms of adapting the benefits available to members, and offering lower cost versions — and short-term payment holidays — for client firms who are in financial difficulties.
However she says in some cases it has been on an ‘ad-hoc’ basis, when talking to individual advisers and she would welcome a clearer message from some insurers.
WPA is one insurer that has publicly stated it will offer rebates, if appropriate, and is also looking to o help clients with a new ‘retention plan’. This is a lower cost option to full PMI, but allow firms to keep employees on cover, so there is no need for underwriting when the firm moves back to its usual plan after the crisis.
WPA chief executive Mark Southern says this plan, which has been devised since the widespread outbreak of the coronavirus in the UK, is designed to offer cover for between a three and 12 month period.
Southern says: “We want to ensure that there are options to change plans mid-term. We want to ensure members still have access to some benefits during this crisis, and we want to look at how retention options, particularly for firms where the lockdown has caused severe financial problems.”
Other insurers such as Bupa have raised the issue of premium holidays for firms who have been hit.
Ginnelly says: “There is no guarantee that all clients firms will be offered this, but it has been raised an as option. It is something I am discussing with all of our Bupa clients, and is another example of how providers are addressing this issue.”
Aetna International is also offering discounts to both new and existing SME clients to help relieve financial pressures.
Towergate Health & Protection principal consultant Karen Smith welcomed the fact that many insurers were adapting and promoting a whole range of health and wellbeing benefits.
“People might think PMI policies are only about hospital treatments but it is a much broader service than that. These health and wellbeing benefits are really important particularly at this time, and it is good to see insurers continuing to promote them.”
Insurers have been adapting some of these services, for example ramping up access to virtual GP services and offering online physiotherapy options. There has also been an increased focus on mental health support and helplines.
Vitality has changed its rewards package, for example. Whereas previously it offered discounts on gym membership it now offers online rewards.
Cigna Europe, director sales and commercial effectiveness, Amy MacKay says: “It is vitally important that we add value to organisation and that they can access benefits at this time.”
She says the firm has launched a new global Covid-19 risk assessment tool which works with regulations and local health advice across different regions. “In the UK we have also launched a new virtual GP service with Teledoc. This can give employees access to medical advice and can also relieve pressure on the NHS.”
However, while insurers are focusing on these additional services for clients, many clients will find they are unable to get elective treatment at present, with hospital and medical staff being deployed to the NHS to tackle the Covid pandemic.
A number of insurers, including WPA and Bupa, have discussed offering rebates to customers if they end up saving money as a result.
However MacKay points out that it is still very early on within the crisis, for there to be a clear view of what the potential impact will be on costs and claims.
“If elective surgery is delayed them it may be a more serious claim at a later stage, which could involve more costs. We have not made a statement on this at present, but we will be working with clients to ensure that premiums remain sustainable.
“At present there is a focus on affordability and helping maintain cover for affected clients.”
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