The NHS treatment backlog was bad enough before the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s now the worst since comparable records began. The latest figures from NHS England show around six million waiting for treatment.
Furthermore, the situation is likely to get worse. A recent report from the National Audit Office predicts that the numbers could double in little over three years.
Company medical insurance schemes that can reduce dependence on the NHS by funding private treatment have therefore never enjoyed a higher perceived value from employees.
Their impact on the bottom line is also increasingly being appreciated by employers, who are conscious of the potential absenteeism and presenteeism costs caused by lengthy waits in the NHS queue.
A private medical insurance (PMI) scheme, which can cover the costs of private operations, outpatient treatments, check-ups and consultations, will normally enable care to be accessed much more quickly than on the NHS, especially in non-emergency cases.
The cover can allow treatment to be arranged at times that suit the workloads of sick or injured employees and of their colleagues, and those convalescing may be able to do some work remotely from the comfort of a private hospital room.
At Chase de Vere we’ve been contacted by a growing number of employers about setting up this type of scheme, as they have realised that the benefits of getting their employees back to work promptly can justify the extra cost.
Nevertheless, some firms, particularly smaller ones, simply don’t have the budgets to stretch to full-blown PMI, and are looking for viable alternatives.
We can discuss ways of reducing premiums by, for example, taking a high excess level or opting for a “six-week option” – where cover is only available if the treatment needed involves waiting more than six weeks on the NHS.
But even these sorts of solutions can still involve very significant outlays, particularly for small schemes with a number of older members – because premiums for smaller schemes take into account the ages of the individuals concerned.
Additionally, PMI can have significant gaps in cover. It typically doesn’t include optical or dental costs — unless employers pay for an additional option — and many smaller schemes exclude pre-existing medical conditions.
A further issue with company-paid PMI is that we are finding that many schemes are experiencing disappointing take-up rates because employees, and particularly younger ones, are worried about incurring costly P11D liabilities.
So, when PMI costs are an issue, we are increasingly steering employers instead in the direction of offering company-paid health cash plans. These can offer worthwhile levels of medical cover for as little as £9 per employee per month*.
They don’t pay for expensive operations, but they do offer employees the ability to reclaim some of the costs of a range of important medical expenses. These include specialist consultations (which they often cover in full), health screenings and complementary therapies – like chiropractic, osteopathy and physiotherapy.
Unlike most PMI, they also help towards the costs of dental and optical treatment, including routine check-ups and new glasses.
Employees who join health cash plan schemes may be offered the option to add their partner for a slightly increased premium, and their children can sometimes be covered free of charge. Everyone on the plan can claim immediately, with no initial waiting period.
Further attractions include the fact that health cash plan schemes of any size typically don’t exclude pre-existing conditions, premiums are the same for each employee, regardless of age, and P11D liabilities tend to be too small to present much of an issue.
The only real disadvantage of this form of cover is that claims are not settled directly by the provider. Instead, the employee pays for the treatment and them reclaims from the provider the maximum proportion of the cost permitted by the scheme limits.
But slick service standards minimise this problem. Claims are generally processed within 48 hours and can often be made online, with payments made directly to the employee’s bank account.
If you would like to find out more about health cash plans, PMI or any other health and wellbeing solutions, then please don’t hesitate to contact Chase de Vere.
*The £9 per employee cost is available to all employees who elect to join, irrespective of age or pre-existing medical conditions.
Content correct at the time of writing and is intended for general information only and should not be construed as advice.