Many doctors and healthcare workers will be reviewing their arrangements for life insurance and/or income protection, or making new applications mindful of the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the healthcare profession.
The BMA was made aware of some reports of doctors encountering difficulty when applying for such policies. We firmly believe that healthcare workers should not be disadvantaged compared to others when applying for insurance policies.
Upon hearing of these reports, the BMA immediately undertook extensive work with our financial partner Chase de Vere. They contacted the majority of insurers to determine how they assess the risks from COVID-19 when people apply for insurance policies.
These investigations revealed that although there was an intention on the part of insurers to treat healthcare workers fairly, some of the questions they asked had the potential to lead to some difficulties for healthcare workers.
This was predominantly because not only are they more likely to come into contact with those with COVID-19, but they are also more likely to undergo PCR (antigen) and antibody testing.
Consequently, the BMA has been in constructive dialogue with the ABI (Association of British Insurers) and we are in agreement that healthcare workers should not suffer any additional barriers when applying for insurance policies.
BMA and ABI joint statement
Having discussed the issue in detail, the BMA and ABI are clear that there should be no detriment to healthcare workers and no one should be discouraged from having a test. Each application for life insurance and income protection will be assessed on an individual basis, regardless of profession, and focussed on the person’s health and severity of any symptoms at the time. A positive test for COVID (either a PCR or antibody test) should not delay an application as long as the individual has recovered and been back at work for the required period.BMA and ABI joint statement
We will continue to work with the ABI to ensure that the approach taken by insurers when assessing applications form healthcare workers remains appropriate in a rapidly changing environment and this does not lead to any difficulties for healthcare workers.
Seeking independent financial advice
Getting life insurance and/or income protection if you have recently had COVID
Most insurers are typically deferring (rather than refusing) applications for those who have recently had COVID-19.
They will normally require the applicant to be back to their usual work pattern and symptom free for a minimum period before considering the application.
In the case of a mild infection, most insurers will specify that you need to be symptom free for a month but if you have been very unwell, admitted to hospital or suffered any complications, they may ask that you have been well and symptom free for three months.
This decision to defer an application is based primarily on compatible symptoms regardless of whether you have had a positive test or not and applies in all cases, not just doctors. If your application is deferred, this does not mean you cannot apply again in the future and there should be no detriment as a result of the deferment.
What insurers will ask
When applying for these policies you will be required to complete a medical questionnaire. The form that insurers use will typically ask four questions about COVID-19:
- Have you had COVID-19 symptoms in the last month?
- Have you had to self-isolate in the last month
- Have you tested positive for COVID-19 in the last month?
- Have you had confirmed contact with someone with COVID-19 in the last month?
If the answer is 'yes' to any of questions 1-3 a postponement in the application process is likely to be applied in order to allow time for full recovery.
However, for frontline healthcare workers the response to question 4 will be looked at differently by the insurer as they acknowledge that they are more likely to be in contact with someone with COVID-19 and that PPE will be worn.
This may result in more questions being asked for clarification around the circumstances (for example you may be asked a subsequent question about PPE). If it is confirmed that it is work related contact, then this is unlikely to result in any detriment in the application or in a higher premium being paid.
We have heard of some examples where insurance brokers and financial advisors have not been aware that insurers don’t consider healthcare contacts with COVID positive patients as a reason to automatically defer policies. If you are told that your application has been deferred for this reason you should query it and state that the BMA has received confirmation from insurers on this.
If you have a positive antibody test
As noted in the joint BMA/ABI statement, a positive PCR or antibody test will not delay the application if you have fully recovered from COVID and have been symptom free for the required period.
In addition, it is essential that healthcare workers are not discouraged from having an antigen test if they think they have symptoms of COVID, in order to prevent transmission to other healthcare workers and patients.
Getting a mortgage
You do not need life insurance, critical illness cover or income protection insurance to get a mortgage.
While protecting your mortgage against death, critical illness and loss of income through ill health are highly recommended, a mortgage provider will not require these policies to be put in place in order for you to get a mortgage.
If you are a member of the NHS pension scheme you will also be entitled to death in service and ill-health retirement benefits.
Will my life or critical illness insurance policy pay out for coronavirus?
If you or a loved one has to make a claim on a life insurance policy as a result of COVID-19, it should be handled like any other life insurance claim and would be paid subject to the usual policy terms and conditions.
COVID-19 in itself is not classed as a 'critical illness' so it is highly unlikely that a critical illness policy will pay out if you develop non-complicated COVID illness.
If, however as a result of COVID-19 you develop a condition that is classed as a critical illness then you should be able to claim on your policy. It is recommended that you check your own policy conditions.
These policies are separate from the government backed COVID life assurance scheme for doctors and healthcare workers in England and Wales and the death in service benefits of the NHS pension scheme.