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Private Health Insurance

We understand the use of private hospitals will raise many questions for private medical insurance customers about the level of treatment they can expect. At this time of national crisis it is right that private facilities are used to help the national effort to fight the virus. People who are due urgent and time-critical support and care, such as cancer treatment, will still be treated as a matter of priority.

Customers due to have non-urgent treatment will still receive their treatment, but only when it is reasonably possible to do so, and the COVID-19 situation has stabilised. We believe this is the right and the responsible response to an unprecedented situation. This Q&A is set out to provide further clarity for customers during this unprecedented time.

How are private hospitals involved in supporting the Covid-19 pandemic?

The Covid-19 pandemic is an unprecedented, and difficult time for everyone. Many patients will need ventilation and intensive support. The UK has limited capacity for this intensive level of care.

In order to prepare for the huge strain on health services, the UK Government needs to maximise the number of beds that can offer ventilation and intensive support, and the available healthcare professionals who can help. The NHS has enlisted the help of the private sector to help do this and they are working closely with the Independent Healthcare Providers Network (IHPN) to support. The ABI and our private medical insurance company members fully endorse this collaboration.  Where there are potentially more people who have immediately life-threatening conditions than there are resources to care for them, the country needs to come together as a whole to prioritise the sickest being treated first. 

Customer benefits of private health insurance are still available

  • Value of primary care services - Health insurance provides a range of benefits to policyholders which can continue to be accessed during the Coronavirus outbreak. This includes  the ability to have virtual and telephone (24hr) contact with GPs and consultants, as well as gaining specialist help for physiotherapy or mental health matters. These services are likely to be expanded where possible over the Coronavirus outbreak. Insurers are making sure that their customers have full awareness of the benefits that can be accessed from the comfort and safety of their homes.  
  • Managing mental health - During this outbreak, insurers have an important role to help people manage their conditions and their mental health as a priority, protecting both NHS capacity and patient safety. This also means customers don’t need a GP referral to access an initial assessment for their condition.
  • Cancer care not affected - Cancer care for customers is crucial and insurers and private hospitals are working to ensure minimal impact on services. Private hospitals are endeavouring to continue to provide cancer services at dedicated sites throughout the UK.  
  • Some treatments will be deferred - Whilst customers will still have access to urgent care, a proportion of customer claims will be deferred for a minimum of three months Insurers are working to ensure that deferred treatments remain authorised so they can be accessed as swiftly as possible when services start to return to normal.

New benefits to support customers in light of Coronavirus

  • New services - Where some treatments will be deferred over this period, insurers are focusing on delivery of other services. As well as expanding delivery of existing virtual services, insurers are also looking at creating new virtual services than can be accessed remotely, such as providing musculoskeletal consultations and treatments to help customers manage their conditions. This also includes providing symptom checkers for a range of conditions, including Coronavirus. 
  • Managing treatments - Insurers know that consultants will start offering virtual diagnostics and treatment (for example pain relief and pain management) during the outbreak period whilst claims and treatment are deferred.
  • Supporting health and well-being - Insurers are also looking to improve virtual services to support health and well-being, to help customers during a period when gyms are closed and other restrictions mean it is harder to access normal health services or to exercise away from the home.
  • Cash back - If customers are hospitalised with Coronavirus they will be treated through the public health system. As there is no private health option available, if they need to receive NHS treatment for Coronavirus, some insurers are offering a cash benefit to provide support to customers.

What is the value of my private health insurance now?

Where treatments and benefits are deferred - not cancelled - customers will get the treatments they need, but these will be necessarily delayed if the treatment is non-urgent during this national crisis. The value of the policy over 12-18 months remains the same. The existing long-term value is not only still true, but also potentially higher given the addition of holding diagnostics and treatments around pain relief and it is possible that some more complex treatments emerge as conditions and diseases progress in this hiatus.

What if I cancel my private health insurance?

We recognise that this is a challenging time for people financially and personally but cancelling your health insurance policy may lead to difficulties in obtaining a new health insurance policy covering health conditions you may already have, or may develop in the time that you are not covered. 

Is any face to face care available at private facilities, and if so, can I have my care as quickly as possible?

Across the UK, everyone needs to think carefully about who should receive care now and who should be advised to wait. It is vital that those who do need urgent care receive it, and prioritising these people whilst capacity is reduced is one of the key challenges. For non-urgent services, the added risk of travel, being in contact with others, and the fact that your immunity will be reduced, means that it is not as safe as before.

At the time of publication, some private facilities expect to continue to provide private care on a reduced basis – stopping some types of care which are less urgent or where there are clinical concerns about providing ongoing care. The position is changing daily, so for those customers who have appointments booked, we recommend you check in with your consultant and hospital in particular on the morning of any appointments, about whether your appointment is going ahead. Health insurers are collating and receiving information from hospitals on access, but the most up to date position will always be from your care provider, which is why we recommend you check in with them.

If I am already under the active care of a consultant, will my treatment continue?

We understand that patients who are currently in a care pathway which is urgent, such as cancer treatment, should continue to receive their care. Some other patients will have their care paused due to the extraordinary crisis the pandemic has caused; individual hospital groups and other stakeholders are taking their own decisions for different services, parts of the country, and patient groups.

Please get in touch with your consultant or hospital to find out the on-going status of your treatment.

What private healthcare can I continue to access?

Private health insurers each offer a number of benefits which will continue to function, including remote care with general practitioners, musculoskeletal (bone, joint, and muscle) clinicians and mental health practitioners. These benefits will vary from insurer to insurer. 

Insurers will also have other bespoke health and care benefits they offer, many of which may be adapted to meet customer needs during this challenging period. Each insurer will assess your needs on a case-by-case basis, depending on your specific policy.

Your insurer can provide you with more details through their usual communication channels such as their website, phone, and webchat services.

Will your policy be able to access private healthcare after the pandemic subsides?

After the pandemic subsides, there is likely to be a large catch-up period of postponed care in both the NHS and private sector. You will continue to be able to access private healthcare in private and NHS hospitals that are receiving private patients as soon as they are able to, which we hope will be within a few months.

How does my dental policy help me during the lock down?

Whether you have a dental insurance policy, Denplan or a cash plan for dental treatment, any cover for routine and emergency treatment is still valid. Denplan and cash plans will help you spread the cost of any treatment and that does not change. Whilst many dental surgeries will be closed during the lock down for routine appointments, treatment and cover for emergencies and accidents can still be accessed. 

If you do need emergency treatment and your local surgery is closed, you should ring NHS 111 to find out which is your nearest surgery providing emergency treatment.

How do I keep up to date?

The best source of information on the pandemic is the NHS and Public Health England website and we encourage customers to follow news posted there. Your insurer will keep you up to date with developments on how they can help you during this difficult time, and, if you are currently under the care of a provider, they will also keep you up to date on your care options and when any postponed care may be re-scheduled. 

What if I want to help?

Anything you can do to help, no matter how small or large, can make a real difference to the lives of people just like you – mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and children. There are many ways to volunteer, including approaching the NHS directly, your local authority (who will co-ordinate social services), and local neighbours. Plenty of advice can be found online on how to help. Do follow government advice on physical social distancing or other measures announced, at all times, as this is the best chance of reducing the spread of the infection in the community.