With high occupancy rates at hospitals due to COVID patients it is not surprising that treatments and surgeries have been delayed and waiting lists for both have grown. In the UK, the National Health Service (NHS) waiting list for treatments and surgery is expected to reach 10 million by April, with some people waiting years for routine treatment. Similar tendencies can be observed in other countries.
Private medical insurance can play a role in alleviating some of the pressure that government hospitals are going through, in particular after the pandemic. Employers are increasingly looking into offering private healthcare to more employees in order to provide access to non-life threatening conditions such as replacement of hips, knees or shoulders, for example. Most medical policies around the world had lower claims in 2020 than in previous years as people delayed treatment. It is expected though, that more people will go for treatment in 2021 as there is only so long that someone will delay seeking medical attention, and also as vaccines continue to be rolled out and lockdowns are lifted.
Cancer diagnosis is a matter of growing concern with the delays in medical treatment. It is widely reported that the number of people going for routine scans and tests such as smear tests, mammograms and prostate exams has decreased massively since the pandemic. The concern amongst medical providers and insurers is that cancer will not be picked up as quickly. The later the cancer is diagnosed, the more treatment could be required and the chances of surviving the cancer decrease. The concern of insurers is that this will lead to higher cost claims on medical plans and an increase in life and disability claims. It is therefore important that insurers and employers work together to encourage employees to continue going for routine tests and educating them on the early symptoms of cancer and other conditions.
Additionally to the above, there is the concern that the pandemic has also impacted cancer research. Labs closing or being repurposed for COVID testing could push back advances in research on new treatments. Fundraising events have largely been cancelled, which means that funding has also been reduced. Employers could play a role here, for example in providing charity days so that employees can have a day off work with pay if they volunteer or participate in a fundraising event.
Delays in treatment and long waiting lists also pushes the need for insurers and employers to work together on employee wellbeing. Promoting healthy lifestyles and wellbeing programs can encourage employees to lead healthier lives and contribute to reduce the risks of employees needing treatment.
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