Insurers calm healthcare workers’ discrimination fears

Doctors’ concerns over their personal insurance application issues during Covid-19 have been responded to in a joint statement from the BMA and the Association of British Insurers (ABI).

It says: ‘Having discussed the issue in detail, the BMA and ABI are clear that there should be no detriment to health care workers and no one should be discouraged from having a test. 

‘Each application for life insurance and income protection will be assessed on an individual basis, regardless of profession, and focused on the person’s health and severity of any symptoms at the time. 

‘A positive test for Covid – either a PCR or antibody test – should not delay an application as long as the individual has recovered and been back at work for the required period.’

Complaints from workers

The BMA took up the matter last week following reports of healthcare workers having insurance applications deferred based on a positive Covid-19 antibody test.

Dr Vishal Sharma, deputy chairman of the BMA’s Consultants Committee, said: ‘Some insurers may be cautious about providing policies to those with a recent Covid-19 infection or to those who have been recently unwell with symptoms of the virus, wanting to make sure the applicant has fully recovered.

‘However, the BMA believes that it is essential that staff with symptoms are able to seek an antigen swab test and that this should not result in any disadvantage compared to someone who has had symptoms of COVID but not undergone a test.’

The BMA said a positive antibody blood test should not disadvantage people when making these applications.

Insurance industry response

In a letter to the BMA from the ABI, its director general Huw Evans said: ‘I can confirm that anyone who has had a positive antigen test will be considered on an individual basis and the same as an applicant who is currently experiencing symptoms for Covid-19 but has not yet had a confirmatory test. Healthcare workers will not be disadvantaged in this way and we do not want to discourage people from taking appropriate tests in keeping with Government policy to test and trace.  

‘Likewise, insurers will take the same approach to any individual who has had a positive antibody test. The focus is on the applicant’s health and severity of symptoms and so we would not expect there to be a delay if they have since recovered and been back at work for the required period.  

‘On the issue regarding screening questions, we have taken on board that application forms may not always distinguish between an antigen or antibody test. Insurers will continue to review their Covid-19 related questions in light of this and other developments as the testing programme evolves and this may differ from firm to firm depending on their own commercial view or underwriting philosophies.  

‘You also query whether healthcare workers’ answers to insurers’ questions regarding contact with people who are “Covid positive” are ignored: this does vary between providers. In order to continue to support front-line workers, some insurers do not routinely ask about contact with “Covid positive” people where this is part of their day-to-day role or allow healthcare workers to answer “no” to these questions. 

‘As you highlighted, in these cases, extra precautions are being taken by wearing PPE in line with NHS Guidance on Infection Control. If an individual has been in contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19, but is not showing symptoms nor has tested positive themselves, many insurers would accept their application at standard rates.’