Pet insurance, breast augmentation and friend cover are among the more unusual benefits requested of health cash plan providers.
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- Traditional health cash plans have come to include benefits such as aromatherapy massages, hypnotherapy and reflexology.
- Some cash plan providers have been asked to cover laser tattoo removals, breast augmentations and pet insurance.
- Quirkier requests are more often made by individual employees than by employers, and have led to much more tailored health cash plan products.
Quirky is not a word that is usually associated with health cash plans, but over the years they have come to offer some unusual benefits.
Many providers of health cash plans survey members to gather feedback and suggestions on the benefits offered, with the responses considered for inclusion in the plans.
Lara Rendell, marketing manager at Health Shield, says: “As a result of feedback, many services have been added, including allergy testing, aromatherapy massages, hypnotherapy, naturopathy and nutritional therapy.”
Some holistic treatments, such as reflexology, reiki and shiatsu, have also been added to cash plans following feedback from employees. More unusual benefits that have been requested but not added to a plan include laser tattoo removals and breast augmentations.
Emma Exelby, senior business development manager for specialist sales at Bupa Health and Wellbeing UK, says: “Although we don’t pay for the breast augmentation surgery itself, if the individual was going to see a recognised consultant, they could claim for that consultation on a health cash plan. If they were in hospital overnight, they could claim for the hospital benefit as well.”
Cover for dogs and next-door neighbours has also been requested. Brian Hall, sales and marketing director at BHSF, says: “From time to time, we get asked whether we can do a health cash plan for pet insurance. As far as we know, there isn’t one on the market. People were also asking: ‘My best friend doesn’t work for a company that offers a scheme; can I add her on?’ It’s meant to be just the employee and their immediate family.”
Some providers include employee discount schemes in a health cash plan so staff can access discounts in high-street shops. Mike Blake, compliance director at PMI Health Group, says: “Some of them do cashback options as well. If it’s a regular purchase, they can buy a £100 voucher for £95.”
Quirky requests often reflect the sector in which the health cash plan member works. For instance, a retail employee might ask for teeth whitening because they interact with customers. In a manufacturing environment, where employees require safety glasses for their job, a cash plan might cover the prescription for these.
In other cases, it might be the level of the benefit that is unusual, for instance a cash benefit paid out for hospital usage for every night of the year. Matthew Judge, technical director, healthcare at Jelf Employee Benefits, says: “Is anyone going to be in hospital for the whole year? Probably not.
“Some unusual bits were put in place years ago and left in. There are levels of cover that are clearly unnecessary, and perhaps it would be more beneficial to have a more realistic level.”
The health cash plan market is increasingly offering tailored packages rather than a series of set benefits, so such peripheral and quirky benefits cater to the demands and requirements of the individual employee rather than the needs of the employer.
David Castling, commercial sales manager at Engage Mutual, says: “The cash plan market is really competitive and everyone is trying to differentiate themselves from each other. The word of caution there is that we don’t lose sight of providing value for the customer and that the cash plan is delivering something that is of use, not just a novelty.”