Over the last couple of years the National Health Service has been forced to cope with unprecedented challenges brought by the Covid-19 pandemic. The enormous strain on NHS resources has led to considerable delays to treatment and a rising demand for private medical treatment and private health insurance.
To date, the effects of the virus are still being felt by the country’s healthcare system and people are looking to health insurance to help them get faster access to medical care. But does health insurance cover Covid-19? From testing and vaccination to treatment and support, this article takes a look at how UK health insurance providers are dealing with Covid-19.
The role of private healthcare throughout the coronavirus pandemic
Since the beginning of the pandemic, treatment for coronavirus has been managed by the NHS as a public health matter. Private hospitals have been supporting national efforts by providing their facilities to the NHS to treat Covid-19 patients or carry out non-emergency care.
Given the surge in NHS admissions, it’s likely that private medical insurance policyholders would have experienced delays in accessing private care for some non-urgent treatment. Nonetheless, the health insurance industry is expected to continue to grow as the benefits of having a faster route to medical care became more relevant than ever for many individuals and families.
Is coronavirus testing covered by health insurance?
In the UK, diagnostics (tests) and treatment relating to Covid-19 have been overseen by the Government, and residents have been able to get PCR or rapid lateral flow tests through the gov.uk website. While testing is free at the time of writing, this is expected to change from the 1st of April 2022. There are however some private clinics that offer Covid testing , although this is typically testing for travel, although some may also offer general population testing.
Tests that are medically required before treatment or to support diagnosis may be covered
Generally, travel tests and asymptomatic tests won’t be covered. However, if you’re about to receive medical treatment approved by your health insurance provider as part of a claim and covid testing is required, then it’s likely this will be covered by most health insurance providers however this depends on your policy and provider so it’s important to check in advance.
Some insurers might also pay for coronavirus testing if a specialist recommends it as a way to support diagnosis of a different medical condition and your cover includes the appropriate benefit (Aviva) or offers discounted fees when booking a test through them (Vitality Health).
Can I get my Covid-19 vaccine covered by my health insurance plan?
The vaccination programme against Covid-19 in the UK has been rolled-out by the government in partnership with the NHS and it’s free to everyone.
Even if the private sector is supplied with Covid vaccines in the future, it’s important to note that vaccines are a preventive measure and are not used to treat acute conditions. Therefore, it’s unlikely they will be covered by any health insurance policy. Moreover, side effects that occur after a covid-19 vaccine are also likely to be excluded from cover.
Does health insurance cover Covid-19 vaccination in another country?
If you have an international health insurance policy, vaccinations might be covered in your country of residence, outside the UK (Freedom Health Insurance, Bupa Global, William Russell).
Does health insurance cover Covid-19 treatment?
Treatment for Covid-19 is run exclusively by the NHS, free of charge. If you have health insurance and are hospitalised with Covid-19, you’ll be under NHS care, regardless of whether you are admitted to an NHS or private hospital (used by the NHS temporarily). This might change in the future following the government’s announcement to end many of the restrictions and policies put in place to deal with the pandemic.
NHS cash benefit if you are hospitalised with Covid-19
Many health insurance companies have adapted their cover and now provide an NHS cash benefit to support their clients undergoing hospitalised treatment for coronavirus.
Remote health and wellbeing advice
Since the pandemic started, many health insurance providers have started providing virtual GP services, giving policyholders virtual access to medical advice without needing to travel to a GP surgery. Therefore, if you are at home with Covid symptoms, you might be able to get telephone or video appointments with a medical professional through your health insurance policy.
Long Covid cover
Long covid is not yet a medically accepted condition and much is still unknown about its implications. Each health insurance provider has their own approach when it comes to covering long-term symptoms of Covid-19.
Some providers are managing cases of long covid by reviewing each symptom in line with the policy’s terms and conditions. This means that if symptoms can be fully treated over a short period of time they may be covered. Chronic symptoms of long covid are likely to be excluded.
It’s important to note that, if you already had covid before getting health insurance, any covid-related symptoms will be excluded from your cover as they are considered pre-existing medical conditions.
Other health insurance companies have developed more focused benefits to support their members suffering from long Covid. With Axa Health for example, policyholders who have been referred for Long Covid support by a GP can get consultations and access to a rehabilitation programme dedicated to long Covid sufferers.
Other ways health insurance companies have been supporting their members during the pandemic
Mental health support
The Covid-19 pandemic and its restrictions have had a significant impact on people’s mental health, and having professional help on hand has become very important. Many private health insurance policies offer mental health cover, usually as an optional benefit, with some providers implementing extra support to help their members. Depending on the provider, this can come in the form of free subscriptions to mental health apps, 24/7 mental wellbeing helplines or face-to-face counselling (Bupa).
Direct access to specialist without GP referrals
Another way in which health insurance companies are helping clients is through a simplified process of seeing a specialist by skipping the GP referral step. Therefore, policyholders can get a speedy diagnosis for various conditions without needing to get referred by a GP.
Getting quick access to treatment has always been one of the top reasons for people buying health insurance and Covid-19 has brought even more emphasis on the value of protecting your health.
Although coronavirus testing, treatment and vaccination in the UK are provided by the public health sector for now, health insurance providers have been able to provide extra support through the pandemic. Offering benefits such as cash benefits and remote medical services seem to be common practice in the health insurance market and we expect that providers will continue to adapt their products to the way people look after their health.
The information provided in this article is for guidance only and is accurate as of February 2022. If you are interested in getting health insurance and have question about Covid cover, our specialists are able to provide advice based on your personal situation and needs.
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