Friday, 18th December 2020

Well, what a year this has been!

At our 2019 Health & Wellbeing Summit last November, leading business commentator Simon Jack focused on the potentially damaging impact on business of a year of uncertainty because of Brexit.

What he, or indeed none of us, could not have predicted was the devastating impact of a Coronavirus pandemic on businesses, healthcare systems and individuals across the world.

I certainly had one eye on Brexit and expected to be spending much of my time lobbying for IPT on healthcare spend to be zero rated.

But on March 23, all our lives were turned upside down. Overnight, more than 70% of the UK working population started working from home or were furloughed. Our inspirational frontline workers in healthcare and other essential services put their lives on the line every day in the fight against Covid-19.

Independent private hospitals played their part, providing much needed capacity to support the NHS.

Health insurers and cash plan providers also adapted, changing their Ts & Cs where necessary to ensure Covid was eligible for benefit. Many enhanced their NHS cash benefits to include Covid and introduced a raft of financial measures to support those experiencing what will hopefully be short-term financial difficulties.

There were some disgruntled policyholders who felt disrupted access to private hospitals for inpatient and outpatient treatment meant policies were not worth keeping.

We all have a responsibility to ensure policyholders understand the need to protect their underwriting and the impact of cover breaks on any pre-existing medical conditions – PMI is not a subscription to Sky Sports which you can turn on and off at will.

However, it is equally significant that NHS contracted capacity in the private hospital sector is not detrimental to the delivery of outpatient and inpatient treatments to those PMI policyholders who are paying insurers substantial premiums for the privilege.

In my opinion, insurers and cash plan providers certainly continued to deliver value in 2020. Digital technology leapt forward five years overnight, not least in the delivery of private GP services and appointments.

Musculoskeletal conditions came to prominence as many bodies struggled to cope with long, home-working days from beds, beanbags and settees!

Exercise and managing our mental health became core to our wellbeing during the pandemic – suddenly it became okay not to be okay and I for one think we are all better for that.

Providers introduced a range of support services for intermediaries and clients through a series of highly informative and helpful webinars – who had a Zoom account before March?!

As an Association, we’ve done our bit, too. We’ve increased direct member communications when we have had something useful to say. We’ve run an “Are you sitting comfortably” education event for everyone working from home as well as compliance sessions including a “Compliance Power Hour” on the latest regulatory matters.

Those of you who write international business should know all about equivalency, contract continuity and passporting by now.

We delivered our AGM digitally for the first time and ran our first digital Health and Wellbeing ‘micro’ Summit last month with three key presentations all in 90 minutes!

The announcement of a Covid vaccine has lifted spirits and we all hope that the vaccine roll-outs will enable us to get back to “normal” – whatever that might look like – hopefully in the Spring.

Covid and Brexit will continue to pose challenges for us in 2021. But they will also bring with them opportunities, not least in using digital technology to deliver more immediate and less intrusive healthcare.

Over the next 12 months I expect all of us to be much more adept at managing our own health from the comfort of our own homes.

As advisers and insurers or providers of health and protection care services we need to ensure we continue to deliver value in support of our clients.

If you haven't already seen it, I recently spoke with Health & Protection editor, David Sawers, on a number of topics – including the impact which 2020 has had on advisers and what we can expect in 2021. The full video is now available below.

2020 has been our annus horribilis. Let’s make sure 2021 signals a new dawn for our healthcare and our society.

On behalf of your AMII Executive Team, General Secretary Michael Payne and I would like to wish you, your colleagues and your families our best wishes for the festive season and a healthy, happy and prosperous 2021.

Stuart Scullion, Executive Chairman