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Why there is no time like the present to discuss PMI with your clients

Published: 11/07/2023

With demand still high for private healthcare, there’s never been a better opportunity to discuss PMI with clients. Especially given the expanding range of everyday healthcare benefits on offer to clients, writes VitalityHealth Distribution Director, Athos Rushovich.

Hardly a week goes by where we don’t hear about the challenges facing our national health service. It’s no surprise therefore that demand for private healthcare is rising.

Despite this, a significant majority of the UK population still do not have private medical insurance (PMI)1  and growing numbers are opting for self-pay, which can cost customers large sums of money.

Given the important and expanding role that PMI can play - not just in covering private hospital treatment, but through access to a growing range of everyday healthcare benefits, such as access to primary care and cover for dental, optical and audio treatments alongside preventative lifestyle support – there’s never been a better time to discuss the value of cover with clients. 

“Offering clients peace of mind is important, particularly as the chance of them requiring some form of healthcare during their lives is relatively high. But at a time when budgets are tight, many clients are understandably looking for something more tangible and immediate.”

- Athos Rushovich, Distribution Director, VitalityHealth

High potential treatment costs

Particularly alarming amid the current widespread news coverage are stories about the number of people getting hit by the full costs of treatment themselves.

According to recent data, over 270,000 people opted for self-pay admissions in 2022, the highest number than at any other time2.

A lot of people probably underestimate the cost of private treatment, even for routine procedures, as it can regularly rise to the tens of thousands of pounds. Medical inflation and advancements in diagnostics and treatment also push up costs year on year.

According to analysis into hospital costs between 2019 and 2022 by Vitality3, private treatment for breast cancer on average costs approximately £40,000, while the average cost of a prostate cancer claim was £26,500. The average cost to go private for a hip or knee replacement was approximately £12,000. For cardiac conditions, to have a cardiac stent fitted privately the average cost was about £10,000, while a cardiac valve replacement cost around £23,500.

Given these high costs, self-pay will be financially difficult for many people and funding it could eat into savings or get them into debt4. There’s also been coverage in the media of people forced to crowdfund treatment5, which is only likely to get worse with rising interest rates and the ongoing cost-of-living crisis

Don't leave it too late

Compare the costs of treatment with the average PMI premium in the UK, which is £125 a month6 (with more than one person often covered under a plan) and the value of PMI cover quickly becomes apparent.

The problem facing many of those opting for self-pay is that they’ve left it too late to insure themselves, leaving it as the only alternative option available to them.

As an industry, we need to remember that a lot of consumer interest in private healthcare will be reactive, driven by a concern over access to treatment and waiting lists. Often once the need has arisen.

That’s why its crucially important advisers discuss PMI with their clients at the earliest opportunity, while they’re still young, fit and healthy. This way, not only can they secure cover at a lower cost, they are less likely to have pre-existing conditions which can make putting cover in place challenging.

More than just peace of mind

Not only does PMI spread payments to avoid a nasty financial shock occurring if a medical issue does arise, it offers clients peace of mind that they can get fast access to care should the worst happen.

This is particularly powerful for PMI, because the likelihood of requiring some form of healthcare during our lives is relatively high. Though at a time when budgets are tight, many clients are understandably looking for something more tangible and immediate. 

For younger clients as well, they may perceive that their risk of developing more serious conditions is a lot less likely and therefore the peace of mind benefit is a harder sell.

This is where every day healthcare benefits available within PMI can be of real value, in providing something that clients are likely to use and see the benefits of, from day one of their plan.

Access to everyday healthcare

Primary care in particular – like access to virtual GPs, mental health support and physiotherapy – is an area we’ve seen huge demand for over the last few years, accounting for more than 40% of our health claims in 20217.

With the pressures people are facing in accessing the NHS, these are services clients are likely to use and see real value from immediately.

The growing mental health challenge in the UK, exacerbated by the current economic climate, also highlights how valuable access to mental health support is – one of the reasons we removed all medical underwriting on our in-network Talking Therapies, making it easier for clients to get the help they need.

On top of these services, clients can also access things like diagnostic testing, including blood tests and x-rays, as well as private prescriptions. With no excess to pay and up to £100 per plan year to spend, Vitality members can also save money on these everyday private healthcare costs.

In offering access to these and other healthcare benefits digitally, we can also make it easier for clients to use their plan as and when they need it. Our Care Hub, for example, provides a one-stop-shop where clients access everything they need from their healthcare plan, along with instant digital authorisation to speed up onward diagnostics and treatment.

More than just cover

Given the growing pressure on healthcare services from preventable illnesses, broader health and wellbeing support to help people lead healthier lives has never been more important.

It’s another area where the scope of PMI plans is expanding, away from the traditional approach of just treating illness, to preventing conditions from arising in the first place.

The world is changing fast and wellbeing is in the spotlight like never before, as people increasingly consider how lifestyle choices can impact their long-term health. A PMI offering that delivers a tangible wellness solution, incentivised rewards and benefits, as well as assurance that the best quality care can be accessed when it is needed, is therefore far more attractive today than it ever has been.

Find out more about how Vitality’s Serious Illness Cover can offer more relevant, comprehensive cover for your clients:

Where to next?

  • Prioritising protection in a challenging environment

    Unfortunately, the economic outlook for many in the UK is a gloomy one. However, this has increased the need for financial protection advice, not lessened it, writes Greg Levine, Chief Operations and Growth Officer for Vitality.

  • Why isn't the UK getting healthier?

    In light of technological innovation and the health challenges we face in the UK, the insurance sector has an important role to play, writes Vitality CEO Neville Koopowitz.

  • Why now is the time to talk about indexation

    With clients continuing to face rising living costs and their purchasing power being eroded, futureproofing the value of protection cover has never been more important.

  • Insights Hub

    Our Insights Hub brings you our range of adviser content - from video series to articles & blogs.

1. abi_report_a_sustainable_healthcare_system_for_all_june-2023.pdf
2. PHIN - PHIN Private market update: May 2023
3. Vitality Claims Analysis 2019-2022. Cancer costs relate to the full cost of a claim. Orthopaedic and cardiac costs relate to procedure costs only (including surgeon and hospital)
4. Brits go into debt due to staggering cost of private healthcare amid NHS long waits - Mirror Online
5. Crowdfunding for medical care doubles amid record NHS waiting lists | Private healthcare | The Guardian
7. VitalityHealth Claims Insights Report 2022