Resources in the UK’s private medical sector have been reallocated to help the NHS deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. WPA Healthcare has become the first insurer to offer refunds to its customers because of treatments being postponed.
COVID-19 has placed a large amount of pressure on the NHS to provide care for sick patients. With virtually all of the private healthcare sector’s capacity being reallocated to the NHS, private medical insurance (PMI) policyholders have been unable to access private services. As a result, WPA is offering its customers a rebate of approximately 40% of their April premium. While WPA is not the most popular PMI provider in the UK (2.4% of UK consumers bought PMI policies with the provider in 2019, according to GlobalData’s 2019 UK Insurance Consumer Survey), this move will help improve its customer satisfaction and will help its brand attract more customers in the future.
Insurance premium rebates are still not very common in the UK. While numerous car insurers in the US are offering their customers some sort of rebate, only a handful of UK motor insurers, like Admiral, LV=, and Direct Line, have announced similar plans. WPA now joins this short list of insurers to provide compensation for policyholders during a period of lesser claims. Bupa has pledged to pass on any exceptional financial benefit as a result of COVID-19 to its customers, but is yet to announce exact figures. While some of the largest players in the PMI space, like Aviva and AXA, are offering a cash benefit to their policyholders for overnight stays at NHS hospitals, no others have gone as far as offering a premium refund.
Insurers may be hesitant to offer rebates due to the increased number of claims that will substantiate following the COVID-19 pandemic. Once the private sector is reinstituted, policyholders will expect to receive any treatments that have been put on hold and delayed, leading to increased costs for insurers at this time. If the private sector is not equipped to handle this new surge in demand, policyholders will be less forgiving to further delays to their care, especially given that more than 29% of policies were bought due to concern about NHS waiting times. If this occurs, WPA’s early move will help to postpone the erosion of customer relationships.
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