Why Health Insurance is Now More Important Than Ever for UK Employees

Why Health Insurance is Now More Important Than Ever for UK Employees
Why Health Insurance is Now More Important Than Ever for UK Employees

It’s no secret that the NHS is under significant strain. Between post-pandemic patient backlogs, insufficient resources, and ongoing strikes, accessing healthcare through the public system seems to be getting increasingly difficult.

From GP appointments to specialist treatment, and from emergency care to mental health support, patients across the UK are facing long waits to get the care they need. As of December 2022, around 7.2 million people were awaiting NHS treatment – a rise of 2 million compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Of course, such lengthy waits can cause significant problems for your employees. Any suffering could be prolonged, problems could worsen while waiting for treatment, and staff may need to take time off if they’re unable to work due to sickness.

As an employer, you have a duty of care to your employees. Supporting your people to access the care they need, when they need it, can be hugely valuable in improving their wellbeing and helping them get on the road to recovery sooner. Employees now expect their health and wellbeing to be cared for – so failing to do so could make it difficult for you to attract and retain employees.

Offering health insurance as an employee benefit can have a significant impact in boosting your workforce’s physical, mental and even financial wellbeing. In fact, a 2022 survey revealed that 63% of employees say health insurance is an important benefit, making it the most desired benefit after salary and remote/flexible working.

So what benefit does health insurance actually offer to employees?

Online GP Services

With many GP practices struggling with rising demand, getting an appointment can prove challenging. Whether you’re suffering from back pain, poor mental health or new symptoms, speaking to a medical professional sooner rather than later can be crucial in helping you get early interventions before the problem worsens.

Most health insurers in the UK provide access to an online GP and nurse phoneline 24/7, allowing your employees to seek medical advice anytime, anywhere. Members can discuss symptoms and concerns with NHS-registered medical professionals, get advice for self-treatment and request prescriptions. Where necessary, employees can be referred to a specialist from the insurer’s panel.

So whether your employees need advice, specialist assessments, or peace of mind over new symptoms, providing access to an online GP can help get them on the right track.

Faster Treatment

For many illnesses and ailments, speed can be of the essence. Not only can long waiting times be emotionally draining and cause prolonged physical discomfort or deterioration, but delays in accessing treatment can result in extended time off work and financial losses.

Private hospitals and other medical facilities typically have significantly shorter waiting lists than seen through the NHS. From diagnosis to aftercare, patients are usually able to schedule appointments as soon as they need them in the private sector.

Of course, private facilities are available without insurance. However, access generally comes at a high cost – which few can afford in the current economic climate. Most health insurance plans offer a direct payment agreement between the healthcare provider and insurer for private consultations, so your employees may not need to pay up and claim back for medical expenses. However, they may need to pay any shortfalls and excesses, depending on their level of cover.

By providing comprehensive health insurance cover for your workforce, you can help employees get the care they need, when they need it, without breaking the bank. Whether it’s mental health concerns, cancer treatment or back pain, patients can be seen to much quicker through private healthcare – helping to get them on the road to recovery and back to their best sooner rather than later.

Mental Health

Even prior to the pandemic, public mental health services were under pressure. Since 2020, demand for mental health support has risen enormously, with over 76% more referrals in February 2022 compared to February 2020.

The majority of health insurance plans in the UK offer a range of supports for mental health, with all providers making great strides in their offerings over recent years.

Employees can get immediate support through 24/7 phonelines, be referred for specialist or psychiatric assessment, and access a range of treatment options such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and counselling – often without needing to see a GP.

Depending on your insurer, your employees may also be able access a range of resources to improve their mental health without speaking to a professional – such as videos, in-app tools, and guides to help maintain good mental health. Some providers even offer guidance for line managers, with resources on how to identify employees who may need support, and how to go about offering that support.

While most plans will offer a basic level of mental health supports, more advanced benefits are usually available as add-ons – so don’t assume everything is included with a basic level of cover.

As with physical ailments, early intervention can be crucial to mental health. By getting your employees the right support early on, you can help prevent more serious issues developing and keep your workforce happy, healthy and performing at their best. However, it’s important to know what’s available through your plan and to communicate this clearly and regularly to employees. Otherwise, you could find valuable benefits go under-used, simply because employees aren’t aware of them

Cancer Cover

Of course, health insurance provides cover for a wide range of conditions, injuries and illnesses. However, many plans offer dedicated supports and benefits specifically for cancer.

Depending on your plan, employees can be covered for specialist consultations, diagnostics, genetic testing and both radiotherapy and chemotherapy – among a wide array of benefits. From diagnosis to monitoring after treatment, the right health insurance plan can give employees the support they need through an incredibly difficult time.

The value of health insurance when faced with serious illness cannot be understated. Often, support goes beyond paying medical bills – depending on your plan, there can be a reassuring voice on the other end of the phone, help with transportation for appointments, and at-home care. Cancer diagnosis and treatment is never easy, but with the right support and care employees may find it that little bit less daunting.

Additional Supports

The benefits and supports available through health insurance are vast. Depending on your plan, employees may be able to access benefits for maternity, dental, optical and musculoskeletal issues – to name just a few. The options are endless, so it’s important you understand what matters most to your workforce, and what’s available on the market, before choosing a plan.

Many plans also include additional benefits as standard, such as gym discounts and fitness support to help your employees stay fit and healthy, or Employee Assistance Programs to offer guidance for personal, emotional or even financial and legal issues.

However, these benefits sometimes go underutilised, as many employees are unaware they’re available. Many people will only look into their health insurance policies once they’re in need of healthcare, and don’t realise the range of additional benefits available to them. To get the most out of your policy, be sure to communicate all the included benefits to your workforce – don’t rely on them reading the full policy documents.

There are many health insurance plans available to help your workforce access treatment and care and get on the road to recovery more quickly. However, benefits and cover vary from one plan to another.

As the public healthcare system struggles with huge demand and long waiting times, ensuring your employees have the best cover available for your budget is more important than ever. As a result, it’s crucial you review your existing cover and compare against other plans available on the market every single year before renewal.

Plans, pricing, benefits and employee needs are constantly changing. So, whether you already have a corporate health insurance plan in place or are looking to offer one as an employee benefit for the first time, reviewing all of your options is crucial to ensuring your workforce has the support they need.