Aviva believes that the coronavirus pandemic could lead to a period of higher private medical insurance (PMI) claims when “normal” hospital services resume.
But the insurer said that it if PMI claims are lower than planned over the period of the pandemic, which is expected to last into 2021, it “promises” to return the difference to UK PMI policyholders.
A spokesman said that if PMI customers are struggling financially due to coronavirus and need help the insurer can defer their monthly payment for up to three months, although members will need to pay back the premium when the deferral period ends.
Private and independent sector hospitals have – for the most part – not been providing treatment to privately-funded patients, after a landmark deal was signed with the NHS several weeks ago.
Since that deal was struck, private and independent sector hospitals have been providing care for patients both with – but mostly without – coronaivirus and have acted as a bulwark against any potential second wave of coronavirus that could, in mininsters’ terms, ‘overwhelm’ the NHS.
An Aviva spokesman said: “While the terms and conditions of our PMI policies have not changed, the COVID-19 pandemic has restricted the availability of private treatment. However, customers’ cover will still apply if treatment is available privately.
“For our individual and SME UK PMI policyholders, we appreciate that treatment may be delayed as a result of COVID-19 and this may result in overall claims costs being lower than expected in the short-term.
“However, we expect treatment to be delayed rather than cancelled and we anticipate overall claims costs subsequently to be higher. We would expect the period of lower claims to be broadly offset by the period of higher claims.
“We don’t yet know what the overall impact will be on our claims experience. However, if PMI claims to Aviva are lower than planned over this entire period, expected to be over 2020 and 2021, we promise to return the difference to UK PMI policyholders. This calculation will be independently audited.
“For our large corporate PMI and healthcare trust clients, we are seeking to apply similar principles, but due to the complex nature of our corporate health products, our approach will vary on a case-by-case basis. This will naturally need to differ across fully insured, corporate excess and trust schemes given the differing nature in the way each type of policy operates.
“As our understanding of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis becomes clearer, we will provide further details on how we intend to deliver our pledge for our UK PMI customers.”
The Aviva spokesman said that if the urgency of the pandemic eases then, in the first instance, the insurer anticipates that private resources will be aligned to providing critical care such as cancer treatments, to both private and NHS patients.
That would mean that PMI customers may experience longer waiting times for some non-urgent treatment during this time.
But he said: “As the UK moves into the next phase of its COVID-19 healthcare strategy, customers can be reassured that Aviva is working hard to offer customers the support they need, as soon and as safely as possible.”