Employer-funded health cash plans remain big business as the UK economy continues its slow recovery and employers strive to help their staff maximise their take-home pay.
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- Optical and dental remain the most popular benefits claimed through health cash plans.
- Physiotherapy and chiropractic care are growing in popularity.
- Shortfalls in National Health Service provision are helping to drive cash plan take-up.
Medicash Healthcare is one health cash plan provider to have seen increased demand for its employer-paid plans in 2013.
Andy Abernethy, marketing manager at Medicash, says: “Employers are coming forward and looking for company-paid cash plans that they can offer across their entire workforce, whereas private medical insurance (PMI) tends to be for just a selection of the workforce.”
Laing and Buisson’s Health cover UK market report 2013 , published in July 2013, highlights the impact of this rise in demand for health cash plans. The report shows that the volume of demand for UK health cash plans remained largely stable in 2012, increasing by 0.1% (1,500 contributors) to reach a total of 2,601,000 contributors by the end of that year.
That followed consecutive annual falls in the previous four years: volume demand for UK health cash plans contracted by 12.4% between 2008 and 2011.
Most popular benefits
Optical and dental care remain the most popular benefits taken up through workplace health cash plans, with complementary therapies, such as physiotherapy , increasing in popularity throughout 2013.
Abernethy adds: “Our top claims by value are always optical, and that’s been consistent over the last five years. Optical and dental are always the most claimed benefits for our cash plans, but optical always tends to have the top value attached to it because employees can claim for glasses, but also prescription safety glasses and contact lenses.
“We have found that more employers have been pushing their visual display unit (VDU) users to use their cash plan benefit as opposed to having a separate VDU eye test benefit.”
Inpatient services used to be the second most popular benefit taken up through Medicash’s cash plan, but it phased out these services from its corporate cash plan in the run-up to 2010. “This is because employers are actually looking for health cash plans to be more proactive and preventative, so rather than paying for employees who are sick, they are looking for benefits that stop them from getting sick in the first place,” says Abernethy.
Flu jabs and chiropractic care are, therefore, increasing in popularity with employers.
Optical and dental healthcare have been the most popular benefits for claimants of health cash plans offered by Westfield Health, Simplyhealth and BHSF in 2013.
These benefits accounted for 50% of all claims paid by Simplyhealth during the year, with therapies such as physiotherapy being the provider’s third most popular perk.
Outpatient therapies, such as private consultations, were the third most popular benefit taken up through Westfield Health’s plans, while optical and dental accounted for 75% of BHSF’s claims.
Increasing use of therapies
Brian Hall, sales and marketing director at BHSF, says: “The receipt value suggests that it is still, in the majority, for National Health Service (NHS) dental, rather than private dental. The big increase in benefit usage over the last three or four years, and steadily increasing, is the use of therapies, such as chiropractic, osteopathic and mainstream physiotherapy. That has seen a significant rise, I think because of public awareness.”
Hall says employees are increasingly aware that when they suffer with a bad back, for example, they have a choice of visiting an osteopath or a chiropractor, rather than their doctor, for treatment and support.
“As for physiotherapy, other than in extreme cases, the NHS struggles to provide support,” he says. “I think people are now more aware of physiotherapy and they are accessing it more readily.
“Once upon a time, we’d have said it was optical, dental and then the rest. Now therapies are very clearly the third most popular item.”
Read the digital edition of our Health cash plans supplement 2014 in full.