Comment & Analysis

What the headlines really mean: How the Covid-19 story is playing out at ground level for insurers and consumers alike

Unless you’re on a remote island somewhere, you’d be hard pushed to have missed out on the regular news updates which have been broadcast daily since Covid-19 hit the UK back in late February.

Our day to day lives from that point forward have been governed to a large extent by figures – figures many of us are loathe but are also drawn to monitor closely – and life in the insurance industry has been no exception.

As the headlines started and then continued to roll, so too have the terms of protection insurers across the board who suddenly found themselves in largely unchartered territory and dealing with an overwhelming charge of enquiries to boot.

From day one the reaction from consumers has been extreme, and understandably so. Never in our lifetime has any such crisis been quite so far reaching, or quite so difficult to predict. 

The conundrum such intangibility creates for the insurer is a fraction of that it causes for the consumer, of course, and this is where the story of Covid-19 and its true effect on the insurance industry begins. 

In March, with the health effects of Covid-19 still yet to fully emerge, the main concern among consumers was seemingly how they were going to pay their bills in the face of unemployment or a possible reduction in income.

Once all four home nations had confirmed their first cases in the media, and the prospect of a ‘lockdown’ looked increasingly like a reality, ActiveQuote saw a huge spike (around 1000%) in the number of people looking for short-term Income Protection (IP) policies.

By the time the lockdown was confirmed publicly, towards the end of that same month, this ‘panic buying’ had subsided however, while the terms for both new and existing IP policy holders were on the change daily. 

During the same period, the number of consumers with private healthcare in place accessing GP and other services available to them by virtual means also began to rise sharply. 

As increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases began to be reported in the media, and we all settled into a new way of acquiring food and other essential services, the health implications of the virus – but also of not addressing new and ongoing conditions – was clearly settling in the minds of the UK population too.

Private Medical Insurance (PMI) providers responded to this rise in demand by introducing new health monitoring apps and opening up GP services to their non-PMI customers, among other things, with some said to be recruiting additional GPs too.

By April, the issue of income protection was once again beginning to resurface, with the experience of spending three weeks at home evidently affecting the importance consumers place on the issue of IP (which convention tells us has previously been not enough).

With the initial lockdown period announced to be extending by a further three weeks in mid-April, the prospect of having no way to work even where there’s a will once again had its effect on the protection market.

During the same month, not only did the average term people were looking to cover themselves lengthen out again, the number of men looking into IP also increased too.

Be this a way of trying to avoid repeating mistakes of old, or simply a result of the cataclysmic effects Covid-19 has had on everyday life across the globe generally, we cannot tell from the figures alone unfortunately.

The story of Covid-19 itself is still far from complete, of course, and there are a great many milestones to come for all of us as consumers, insurers and human beings before it can truly be brought to a close. 

How the population continues to react to these points of development is also very much yet to be seen, but either way the importance of having sufficient protection policies in place has spent the past six weeks firmly in the spotlight.

Ultimately, the overarching development to have come about amongst consumers within this time is an overall change in attitude towards the true effects finding oneself unable to work or to access vital health services can have – and that can only be a good thing, for all concerned.


Rod Jones, Partnerships Manager at protection insurance comparison site ActiveQuote

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