The COVID-19 pandemic has had a considerable impact on the private health insurance market. In the UK, the increase in waiting times faced by NHS patients creates an opportunity for the market to grow through new policy sales, but the policies themselves need to be adapted to reflect the new world risks that have been brought about by the pandemic. Long COVID support is one of them.

AXA is one provider that has recognised this and altered the cover provided by its private health insurance offerings to include support for those suffering from long COVID symptoms. GlobalData’s 2020 UK Insurance Consumer Survey indicates that AXA was the second most popular provider of private medical insurance in 2020, accounting for 17.2% of the market.

Research from the Office for National Statistics indicates that one in five individuals continue to have symptoms of long COVID five weeks after their initial infection. Considering the relatively high prevalence of the longer-term effects of the disease and AXA’s leading position in the market, changes to the policy will certainly be an indication to other providers of what they need to include in order to remain competitive, particularly as other leading insurers such as Aviva and Legal & General have implemented these changes as well.

The move to include cover for treatment will be well received by policyholders. Findings from GlobalData’s 2020 UK Insurance Consumer Survey indicate that 41.8% of policyholders sought access to outpatient consultation with specialists and 28% sought outpatient physiotherapy cover, both of which are key areas covered by AXA in the new development.

Moving forward, we expect to see continued enhancements to products as the impact of COVID-19 on individuals’ health becomes clearer and the treatments available to patients continue to develop.