As COVID-19 cases fall, private hospitals are able to start offering treatments for private patients once more. We spoke with Alex Mhandu, Healthcare and Protection Consultant, to find out the impact the pandemic has had on Private Medical Insurance and what we can do to help moving forward.
How has Private Medical Insurance (PMI) been affected by the pandemic?
“PMI sits very closely with everything that’s happened, mainly because the agreement was that all private facilities would be given up for the NHS to use in readiness for the pandemic. Specialist isolation wards were created to complement what the NHS had put in place. So, rather than having the usual sort of private facilities such as The Spire, locally, these were turned into isolation units where patients would be admitted.”
What does it look like now that the dust is settling a little bit? What can people with PMI policies expect moving forwards?
“Policyholders can look forward to using their policy as usual, particularly for elective treatment, and this will resume soon. Private health care in general is for planned treatment and that’s a very key point. So where someone needs emergency treatment there are A&E facilities available and even during lockdown urgent private treatment still continued, for conditions such as cancer. Now the good thing about private healthcare is that treatment can be deferred, and the key word is deferred, which means that any treatment that was stopped then can now go ahead once we have the green light which should be very soon.
“In the meantime, our clients can still access their private care using remote facilities, so you could still have a consultation with a GP, specialist or consultant via video calls.
“Once everything has been formally passed, those with private health care policies will avoid the usual long wait, which is a key benefit of PMI. We are getting back to that stage where it was before. You can imagine that three months of people not having treatment on the NHS means there are even more people waiting for treatment to be done, which generally can be up to six months. Having PMI means you will go back to being seen and treated as quickly as possible.”
Policyholders can look forward to using their policy as usual, particularly for elective treatment, and this will resume soon
Is there anything policyholders need to do prior to using their policy?
“No. You basically pick up from where you left off. If you were in the middle of treatment or if you had something planned or pending before the pandemic, it’s just a case of ringing up the consultant, getting an appointment booked and then speaking to the insurer in the usual manner to make sure that everything is authorised and away you go. As usual, we are always here to help if clients need any advice or direction, so they can always give us a call.”
PMI is a very attractive employee benefit, especially now we’ve all been made so aware of how important good health is, but it has obviously been a very difficult few months for business owners and they might be looking to make savings. What would you say to business owners who are maybe considering dropping their group PMI schemes?
“As an employee, PMI is such a huge benefit and one that really makes staff feel valued. PMI in general is deemed as a luxury for some because it can be quite expensive on an individual basis, whereas it’s ‘cheaper’ as a staff benefit, so already staff can appreciate that saving from the outset.
“So the first bit of advice would be a reminder that this is a key benefit to have for staff, especially in the current climate, where the pandemic has been an eye opener. Many clients have utilized some of the key benefits such as the Mental Health benefits available which have gone a long way. It’s fair to say a large part of the population has been affected by the lockdown and issues around the pandemic so this has been really good. If you really do need to cut costs, there’s also option of retaining cover, but only for key members of staff. If you are relying on the NHS and a staff member is unwell they’re looking at a long wait, PMI helps said employees to be treated quicker, thereby adding value to overall staff wellbeing but also looking after and protecting the company’s productivity and profits in effect.
“This pandemic has really highlighted the importance of health and we’ve seen a rise in enquiries where people now realise the importance of having these provisions in place, even on an individual basis. As a general rule, it’s 25% cheaper to have a group policy than an individual one. Also, depending on how the company is set up, the cost of PMI can be offset against their trading profits. We’re here to help in terms of the logistics to make sure you get the best out of the policy, while also containing costs.
“We tailor policies to work within all budgets. And we can even offer products such as cash plans which aren’t as comprehensive as a full PMI group policy, but can go a long way to helping employers and staff.”
PMI helps employees to be treated more quickly, which adds value to overall staff wellbeing but also looks after and protects the company’s productivity and profits
How have we been helping to support our customers through this, and how will this continue?
“Part of our service proposition is that we are always there for our clients. It’s not just us as a PMI team, but it goes without saying that it’s what we stand for as a business. Having a close relationship with our clients is very important to us and there’s a specialist healthcare team, so if, for instance, I’m not available, the team is there and happy to assist.
“During the pandemic we sent correspondence out to our clients with details about utilizing their cover, contact details with insurers and more importantly some useful FAQs. We have also got this on our website which we directed them to, along with the PMI team contact details.
“Our clients know that they’re getting the best out of their policy and that they’ve got someone to speak to, especially when insurers are involved. So call it an advocacy service. Because PMI can be a minefield we always like to make sure that we make things as easy and as transparent as possible, regardless of whether it’s an individual policy or a group arrangement.”
And finally, what would your advice be to anyone considering a PMI policy, either for themselves or their employees?
“PMI is an insurance policy that you hope you won’t have to use but want it there as a safeguard. And if you do need to use it, you want it to work and that’s where we come in. We’re here to make sure the right measures are in place. The key is not to wait until something goes wrong before thinking about it. Especially with something as important as health – we want clients to make sure you’ve got these provisions in place so they are covered, as pre- existing conditions are excluded.
“We’re also totally independent. So we can use the whole of the market to make sure our clients get the best cover at a very competitive rate, based on their situation.”
If you have any questions about your existing PMI policy, or would like to find out more about taking out a new policy, please call us today on 01603 967955. You can find out more about our Group Private Medical Insurance here, and our Personal schemes here.