Private medical insurance will become more attractive as the NHS continues to battle against the backlog of cases brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The prospects of longer waiting times to access hospital treatment at a time of heightened awareness about the importance of health and wellbeing will lead to a surge in demand for health policies.
GlobalData’s 2020 UK Insurance Consumer Survey indicates that a fifth (20.4%) of private medical insurance holders took out a policy during the past 12 months due to concerns about NHS waiting times and/or services. Cover for specialist/consultant fees (45.8%), hospital charges (44.7%), and diagnostic tests (42.9%) are the main features consumers look for in a private medical insurance policy.
COVID-19 has put the NHS under tremendous strain, and as a result the number of patients waiting for hospital treatment continues to mount. In England alone, this number has now risen to a record-high 5.6 million. Meanwhile, the Institute for Public Policy Research estimates that it could take more than a decade to catch up on cancer treatment delays, following fewer screenings, referrals, and treatment services as resources on the NHS became stretched. If the NHS was able to operate at 105% capacity compared to pre-pandemic levels, it would take until 2033 for the backlog to be cleared.
As delays to NHS treatments continue to captivate the mainstream media, the case for private medical insurance is solidifying. The pandemic has also increased awareness about health and wellbeing. However, despite the increased interest in private medical insurance, the premiums associated with these policies will deter some individuals from purchasing this product. In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic could lead private medical insurance premiums to rise in order for insurers to remain financially viable if they are forced to tackle a significantly higher proportion of costly treatments, such as cancer treatments or severe multi-organ damage.
More so, at a time when COVID-19 continues to bring economic uncertainty and trouble many households, adding a new expense may be unaffordable. However, should the NHS take years to clear the backlog of cases and offer a compromised service, more individuals will balance the cost-benefits of private medical insurance as the economy recovers.