The coronavirus crisis has brought up many questions for health insurance customers, such as whether they can access treatment and if standard policies remain valid in these unprecedented times.
Here, we answer your queries and hopefully reassure you of the benefits of health insurance during coronavirus, as well as offer advice on taking out private medical cover if you don’t already have a policy.
Is my health insurance still valid during coronavirus?
Existing health insurance policies not only remain valid during the Covid19 pandemic but are proving invaluable to the many customers who are unable to see or speak to their GP.
The crisis is undoubtedly impacting on private treatment and consultations, due to the recent partnership between the private healthcare sector and the NHS to fight coronavirus. However, care in a private hospital setting is just one benefit of private medical insurance (PMI), and it’s at times like these that the other benefits - which include access to virtual GPs, counselling and private prescriptions - come into their own.
The Association of Medical Insurers and Intermediaries (AMII) has warned customers against cancelling policies during the pandemic, as they might not be offered the same benefits and premiums when the crisis subsides.
“PMI is not like a TV subscription service that you can cancel and recommence when you are ready,” said executive chairman Stuart Scullion. “Consumers need to protect their underwriting status and cover to ensure they do not find themselves with a new Moratorium or exclusions applied.”
What are the benefits of health insurance during coronavirus?
With GP surgeries closed to many patients and non-urgent operations and procedures cancelled across the UK, waiting lists are set to become even longer. The right health insurance can speed up access to tests, diagnosis and treatment while, depending on your policy, you can also choose the hospital or centre in which you’re treated, stay in a private room and even order your meals from a carefully tailored menu.
With the UK now in lockdown, many people are experiencing increased anxiety and depression, while self-isolation can bring about feelings of loneliness and exclusion. Many workers are facing redundancy, while freelancers and the self-employed are also undergoing significant money worries. Many private health insurance policies offer mental health support and counselling, not just for adult policyholders but also for teenage family members who may be struggling to cope with school closures and the sudden cancellation of GCSEs and A levels.
For example, Bupa’s mental health support includes a wellbeing hub, a Family Mental HealthLine and fast access to help through its Mental Health Direct Access service, which allows customers to speak to a specialist without needing a GP referral. For those who would like to speak with a GP, video appointments are available - usually within two hours - via the newly-launched Digital GP app.
If I have Covid19, can I go to a private hospital?
No, private hospitals do not offer emergency treatment and care, and so anyone with Covid19 should use NHS services where needed. With private hospitals pledging to share staff and equipment with the NHS to tackle the pandemic, it’s possible you will end up being treated with private resources, but you won’t be fast-tracked.
If I’m admitted to hospital with coronavirus, will I get a cash benefit?
It depends on your policy, but several of our partners are offering a cash benefit to members who are admitted to hospital due to the virus*.
Vitality has launched a new cashback benefit for VitalityHealth members, under which customers can claim £250 per day spent in hospital, up to eight days. On day eight, the benefit per day rises to £500, with members able to claim an overall total of £5,000.
Bupa is offering customers a cash NHS benefit of £50 per night, up to 35 nights, for those who need to stay in hospital with the illness, while WPA is funding private coronavirus tests for members, but not treatment.
Can I take out new health insurance during the coronavirus crisis?
Yes, absolutely. While some private medical insurance providers are choosing not to accept new customers at the moment, many are still welcoming new policyholders. In fact, the extra downtime you may have at home is a good opportunity to compare health insurance prices and benefits, to make sure you find the right cover for you and your family.
Will the cost of health insurance go up?
The good news for health insurance customers is that premiums are not expected to go up as a result of coronavirus. However, anyone with a pre-existing health condition, such as asthma, will need to be assessed by underwriters and might find they have a narrower choice of policies and benefits available to them.
If you have an underlying condition and would like to chat with our team, please give us a call for free on 029 2009 0721 and we’ll be able to go through all the details with you.
* Information correct as of Wednesday, 25 March 2020