POSTED: April 23 2020
PMI insurers step up COVID-19 support

PMI insurers step up COVID-19 support

Health insurers have reacted positively to their members coping with the COVID-19 introducing new services, amending terms and conditions and offering new and improving existing financial benefits with Enhanced NHS cash benefits, online clinical centres, expanding virtual GP services and apps, and care pathways and rebate promises. 

For example Bupa has stated that they will not profit from the Coronavirus pledging to rebate any profits made directly back to their customers. WPA, who made a similar pledge in March, has gone a step further by confirming they will be rebating approximately 40% of a monthly premium to their members.

With all insurers, we have found that there is a desire to be flexible in approach and a desire to help.

The monumental deal signed last month between the private health sector and the NHS to help fight coronavirus is, of course, a necessary step to help save lives at a desperate time.

However, the move, which will allow the NHS to carry out some of the urgent operations and cancer treatments that might have been otherwise prevented by the pandemic, has forced health insurers to find ways to add value to polices.

At the time, Association of Medical Intermediaries and Insurers (AMII) chair Stuart Scullion urged for flexibility; to ensure policyholders still benefit from their cover – and to avoid cancellations – while hospital treatment is less accessible.

Most private medical insurance (PMI) providers are drawing upon existing NHS cash benefits to help those hospitalised due to coronavirus, with others are enhancing their offering with an additional benefit for those receiving treatment not just for COVID-19.

Some PMI insurers are pledging to offer rebate to existing customers facing delayed treatment, while the pandemic has also brought the additional health services available through PMI policies into the spotlight.

Virtual GP services, extra care pathways and online clinical centres have become a go-to for health insurers to ensure customers, especially those needing treatment, can get support at these times.

International health insurers supporting ex-pats have had to step up further in their support. International PMI policies by their nature try to replace state healthcare systems. Although each country has their national efforts International insurers have to still give wider support, such as where cover is available, making it clear to their members, that if medically necessary, COVID-19 testing and medical treatment is supported and covered.

With furloughed staff still eligible for their health benefits and with the current general uncertainty there is more demand than ever for information and support.

These are some of changes and approaches that some of the insurers have been made so far.

AXA PPP healthcare

AXA PPP announced they added a clinical support centre to provide specialist consultations during COVID-19. They have also made a commitment to “assess and adjust” for the impact of delayed treatment due to the pandemic. It has committed to appointing an independent auditor to review data in order to transparently account for treatment delays. Complementary new services and value enhancements for members and additional wellbeing have also been added for members.

AXA PPP healthcare has boosted NHS cash payment benefits by £100 per night for UK individual and SME members for NHS in-patient treatment or NHS cancer radiotherapy or chemotherapy that would have been covered on policies – from 01 April 2020 for 12 months. This will also apply to members who are hospitalised as a result of COVID-19.

It is offering unlimited virtual GP service free of charge to UK individual and SME members through Doctor@Hand, provided by Doctor Care Anywhere.

Individual and SME members using the Clinical Support Centre will have policy excesses, and benefit limits or restrictions on outpatient services waived during the crisis period for consultations and diagnostics arranged by the service.

To support mental health and wellbeing, the health insurer is offering free access (up to six months for individual and SME members) to the Thrive app, free online workouts and yoga and online access to ‘Health Unlocked’, as well as discounts to services from AXA Active Plus.

AXA UK’s update web page can be found here. You can find out more about AXA’s added service here.

AXA Global’s COVID-19 information leaflet for their members can be found here.


Bupa has pledged to offer rebate to customers facing postponed healthcare due to the pandemic.

While urgent care, such as cancer treatment, will continue, non-urgent hospital procedures are being put on hold. However, Bupa said it expects there will be an overall reduction for delayed treatments.

The health insurer has written to its customers to inform them of its new commitment, and it plans to commission a third-party review to ensure that what it does is “fair and reasonable” across its different customer groups.

Bupa said it has expanded its services to include telephone and video consultations with nurses, GPs and consultants, as well as specialist help for physiotherapy and mental health, right through to chemotherapy at home for cancer patients.

Bupa said calls to its AnyTime HealthLine have more than doubled, while the digital GP service provided by Babylon has been made available to all its customers with a new COVID care assistant feature.

A dedicated Bupa COVID-19 online hub has also been added.

Alex Perry CEO Bupa UK Insurance commenting on Bupa’s financial commitment to their members said: “As an organisation without any shareholders our customers come first. At this point, no one can predict the full impact of this national crisis and we do not have all the answers yet.  But we want to reassure our customers that we will do the right thing for them, and that any exceptional financial benefit ultimately arising from COVID-19 will be passed back to our health insurance customers. This will be by rebate or other appropriate means.”

advo’s advisers have also been pleased to discover a willingness to go further financially. Sue Smith, advo’s head of private clients said “I called Bupa yesterday and they informed me that if a member was struggling to pay the premiums due to coronavirus, the member could call their ‘Loyalty’ department directly and they may be able to offer assistance depending on previous claims.”

The Digital GP service that Bupa provides in partnership with Babylon is also being made available to all insurance customers with a new COVID care assistant feature.

Bupa’s dedicated information hub can be found here.

Bupa Global –International members can access the Bupa Global Coronavirus hub here.

The Exeter

The Exeter has pledged to pay back surplus premium resulting from a reduction in claims to its private medical insurance (PMI) members.

The Exeter has said: “We expect that, ultimately, the current situation will result in The Exeter paying less in claims than expected during 2020.”

They continued: “We make the commitment to you that any surplus resulting from a reduction in claims will be returned our members. At this stage we do not know how much this is likely to be, but once the full impact of the COVID-19 outbreak is clear, we will be able to review the situation and determine the best way to do this.”

The Exeter has also opened a new clinical support centre for its health insurance customers. It provides virtual access to specialist consultations with specialists and practitioners by telephone, video or online. The panel includes cancer, cardiology, ENT, gastroenterology, gynaecology, orthopaedic and paediatric specialists.

The support centre can also be used by members with a confirmed diagnosis already and waiting for non-urgent, elective surgery to access support for managing symptoms. According to the insurer, it will also refer members who need urgent treatment with newly established care pathways put together by the public and private health systems.

The Exeter said members using the service will not pay any policy excessed and any no claims discounts will not be affected, nor will outpatient benefits for consultations and diagnostics. However, normal policy limits will apply to any treatments that result from it.

The Exeter also announced that, for a minimum of three months, it is offering an enhanced cash benefit of £500 per night to members who are treated without charge in either an NHS or private setting, for any eligible condition including COVID-19. This benefit is capped at £10,000 and will not affect any no claims discount, excess, available cash benefit or overall policy benefit limits. It applies to both new and existing policies.

Remote GP consultations, as well as mental health, physiotherapy, nutritional and lifestyle support, are available via its HealthWise app.


A new COVID-19 cashback benefit has been added for members who require a hospital stay due to coronavirus. All VitalityHealth insurance members hospitalised due to COVID-19 are eligible to claim following an NHS hospital stay:

  • Days one to eight – £250 per day.
  • Day nine onwards – £500 per day. A person with a stay lasting nine days or longer is more likely to need critical care for COVID-19, based on the latest evidence and research.
  • This is subject to a maximum of £5,000 overall.

This benefit is now available to all current members who have a Personal Healthcare (PHC), Business Healthcare (BHC) or Corporate Healthcare (CHC) plan with the benefit of Core Cover, for any admissions up to 30 June 2020. It is also available to new customers subject to a one-month waiting period.

Following the NHS deal, VitalityHealth said: “We are working closely with our hospital partners to continue to deliver treatment where possible for you, particularly within urgent care pathways. Furthermore, we are adapting our benefits and services to make greater use of technology and remote consultations where clinically appropriate, in line with government advice around social distancing and the need to reduce contact.”

Vitality has enhanced its reward benefits and discounts (up to 50% off selected fitness devices). A new Active Reward now gives members up to two on-demand movies each week for earning activity points and its healthy food benefit with Waitrose has been enhanced (25% off Good Health range).

All Vitality members can also access its GP advice line for information and clinical support.


WPA’s large corporate, small-to-medium enterprises and retail customers, as well as staff, have been given unlimited access to Medical Solutions’ remote GP service.

The insurer has also expanded its benefits to cover telephone and video consultations with healthcare providers, including with specialists and therapists.

In a letter to policyholders, it has also reminded customers that it will provide NHS hospital cash benefits and will provide options for customers in financial difficulty to maintain their policy and protect their underwriting.

Through the Medical Solutions partnership WPA customers will be able to use the GP helpline service for advice and treatment for health and medical concerns at no extra cost, including a private prescription service and referrals if required.

WPA advised customers not to contact its remote GP service if they are experiencing coronavirus symptoms.

advo’s experience working with this insurer is that they are actively promoting flexible alternatives within their product range with a view to retaining those clients affected financially by the lockdown.

WPA’s Q&A leaflet can be found here.


Aviva have reached out to their members to reassure and inform them and promote those benefits which can benefit, such as accessing a GP referral through Aviva’s Digital GP app. They have also reminded members that with the increased difficulties of sitting in front of a GP a number of their health benefits including their BacktoBetter service for musculoskeletal conditions and the Mental Health Pathway do not need a GP referral.

You can find out more about AVIVA’s approach and support to customers here.


Other health insurers such as Freedom are promoting their new 24/7 GP24 helpline service, which is delivered by Medical Solutions UK Limited. Their e-consultation service enabling members to have an online video consultation with a GP. The GPs can issue private prescriptions and ‘Open’ referral letters for private treatment.

Most other insurers, including international providers such as Morgan Price and Cigna have sent COVID-19 updates to intermediaries and members clarifying their stances, health support, and when and where claims can be made with any changes or improvements to claims pathways. Some such as Aetna are offering financial incentives such as a month free for some clients renewing after 1st May 2020.

In addition, Cigna are offering a new COVID-19 risk assessment tool. They have partnered with Infermedica, to offer free access to their web-based, interactive triage tool that assesses COVID-19 risk. The tool allows customers to answer questions around symptoms, risk factors and recent exposure. In turn, they will receive local recommendations on next best steps for care. This is not only a screening tool, it also offers links to local health authorities and educational advice about how to keep safe. The tool for their members is available here

If you are uncertain as to how your health insurer can support you or if an employer, your staff, then advo can help. As an independent specialist advisory in the management and delivery of health insurance policies we are ideally placed to provide support. In the first instance email us on




This article includes information from a Cover article entitled ‘What changes have PMI insurers made due to COVID-19?’ . You can read this article in full here.