Private insurance market resurges

By Robin Stride

A surge in private medical insurance sales during Covid is expected to be confirmed in figures from market analysts.

According to economist William Laing, chief executive at Laing-Buisson, figures show last year sparked a large increase in subscription numbers as an annual downward trend was reversed.

Former ophthalmic surgeon Dr Victor Chua, a senior partner with healthcare strategy consultants Mansfield Advisors, confirmed the ‘incredibly resilient’ market was increasing.

A representative survey of 106 small, medium and large firms by his company last July found 70.7% anticipated there would be no change to their private medical insurance policy plans for employees this year, while 9.8% aimed to increase the number of policies.

William Laing

Speaking at a LaingBuisson webinar, he said 7.3% of firms were undecided while 12.2% had expected to reduce their number of policies.

The biggest reasons for cutting back were because employers thought they would have fewer staff due to the pandemic and they considered Covid had reduced the value of insurance because less private treatment was available.

Dr Chua predicted ‘good news for private hospitals’ as NHS waiting lists were projected to grow rapidly and could hit 13m in England.

He highlighted a strong rise in orthopaedic volumes across private hospitals south of London at the start of 2021. He predicted the upward trend would continue but perhaps not at the same rate seen earlier this year.

Asked how bad waiting lists could get he replied: ‘I think really it depends on what the Govern­ment will do to bring it down and frankly with the new health and social care levy, it depends on us as voters to decide how much we are willing to put our hands in our pockets to get those waiting lists down.

‘Does anyone really think the health and social care levy will stay at one per cent? VAT started at 5%, right, and now its 20%. It’s clearly going to go up over time and I think it will depend on the political hue of the Government.’ 

He added: ‘I think we are going to have to get used to quite long waiting times in the public sector for some time, and this is probably good news for private hospital operators for this parliament and probably the next as well.’