The old saying that ‘the greatest wealth is health’ has never rung truer than during the COVID-19 epidemic.
But those rejoicing that they have so far managed to avoid the dreaded virus should not forget the potential dangers of other conditions.
The postponement of routine medical treatments had become a major problem well before the second lockdown. A recent report by the Health Foundation reveals a ‘hidden backlog’ of 4.7 million fewer people referred for treatment between this January and August compared to the same period in 2019. ¹
Disruption to routine screenings has also taken a heavy toll. For example, Macmillan Cancer Support has found that up to 50,000 people in the UK have cancer but have not been diagnosed because of the pandemic.
Furthermore, it predicts this number could double in the next year if delays in cancer referrals and screenings are not fixed. ²
Dentists, who have been having to focus on emergency treatment at the expense of routine check-ups, have also become much harder to access. Recent British Dental Association (BDA) research suggests that over 14 million appointments have been missed throughout lockdown in England alone. ³
Whilst news of a potentially effective new vaccine is certainly welcome, even if everything goes to plan it will take many months to be administered widely enough to make a difference. So, no-one is expecting anything other than a long hard struggle for the NHS during the winter months.
In short, there has never been a better time for employers to consider providing company health plans that can enable employees to bypass the NHS queue and fund private treatment.
As well as being perks with high-perceived values that can help with recruitment and retention, such schemes can greatly benefit the bottom line by slashing absenteeism and presenteeism costs.
Even those well enough to come to work are unlikely to perform at anywhere near their optimum if they are struggling with something like a hernia or toothache, and their moody behaviour may also have a detrimental impact on their colleagues.
So, when we save clients money by reducing premiums or introducing salary exchange we are urging them to invest in private medical insurance (PMI) or health cash plan schemes.
PMI can pay for private operations and enable them to be arranged at times that suit the workloads of the employees concerned and their colleagues. Recovering employees may even be able to contribute to the workplace via email or phone from a private hospital room.
The schemes also typically cover initial specialist consultations, scans and complementary therapies – like physiotherapy and osteopathy – and provide added-value help and information services.
Cash plans don’t cover expensive operations but they do help with a range of minor medical costs. For as little as £2 per employee per week, they can provide everything from worthwhile levels of routine dental cover (together with generous cover for dental accident and injury) to optical cover, complementary therapies and specialist consultations.
Both types of health scheme also frequently include employee assistance programmes (EAPs) to provide confidential counselling for stress and anxiety – which can be invaluable during the current crisis.
Different PMI and cash plan providers can have very different benefit ranges and cost structures but Chase de Vere has its finger on the pulse and can help you select the scheme most suitable for your budget and requirements.
In some cases this may involve considering low-cost PMI that sacrifices elements of cover. It may, for example, have little or no outpatient cover, only cover operations when the NHS waiting list is longer than six weeks or involve an element of co-payment – where the employee pays for a proportion of initial claims.
We can also help you communicate the benefits of your health scheme to your workforce and keep you up to date with any reimbursements your provider may be making to reflect that claims have reduced during lockdown. These might take the form of rebates, payment holidays, cover extensions or future discounts.
Content correct at the time of writing and is intended for general information only and should not be construed as advice.