Be rewarded for being healthy
We all know that regular exercise, a good diet, moderate drinking and not smoking can help prevent a host of illnesses and conditions, including heart disease and some cancers. However, keeping to a strict regime of clean living can be hard.
The good news is that many insurers are now offering schemes to encourage people to lead healthier lives.
The key here is about having the additional motivation. We all know it is better to keep fit but if there is a financial reward as well, we are more likely to do something about it. Insurers also win because healthier customers make fewer claims.
Vitality Health and Vitality Life
Vitality has led the way with its incentive-led schemes now called Vitality Health and Vitality Life (formerly known as PruHealth and PruProtect).
When customers sign up to a private medical insurance or life insurance policy – either as an individual or through a workplace scheme – they have to fill out a health review online. They then earn points for healthy behaviour.
"Our approach is all about focusing on wellness rather than sickness," says Neville Koopowitz, chief executive of Vitality. "Vitality makes it easier for members to get healthy and gives them rewards to keep them motivated, through a range of discounts and incentives."
Vitality points can be earned by working out at a Virgin Active gym, joining a park run, or by walking, running, cycling or swimming with a linked activity-tracking device.
Vitality revamped the way it incentivises healthy living earlier this year, and introduced two new categories: Active Rewards and Status Rewards.
The former is aimed at offering 'immediate' rewards to people who may not currently be healthy.
Active Rewards can be unlocked every week by exercising. For example, nine points – the equivalent of one session in the gym – would get you a free drink from Starbucks or a free cinema pass for everyone on the policy.
If members then maintain a healthy lifestyle and build 'equity' in the programme through engagement, they can improve their Vitality status over time. This allows them to benefit from Status Rewards, such as discounts of up to 40% on British Airways flights.
As an added incentive, Vitality customers also receive discounts, including 50% off Virgin Active gyms (though this only applies to its monthly membership price, and not its cheaper annual price), plus 50% off selected Garmin tracking devices.
"By closely linking rewards to activity, new healthier habits will hopefully form, ensuring a sustainable change in behaviour," says Koopowitz. "Our aim is to create products that offer benefits to members even if they don't make a claim."
Aviva Healthier Solutions
Aviva is another insurer that encourages its customers to make healthy lifestyle choices.
Customers who take out a Healthier Solutions private medical insurance policy get access to discounts on their premium if they live healthily.
They can do this by registering for MyHealthCounts, a free online tool designed to help customers understand their current state of health, and the lifestyle choices that impact upon it.
After signing up, customers have to complete an online health questionnaire. Based on this information, the insurer will then calculate their 'Q score', which shows how healthy they are compared to 100 people of the same age, race and gender.
MyHealthCounts will then recommend a 12-week health programme to help you improve their health. This can range from increasing physical activity to quitting smoking. It will also include personalised advice and suggestions on how you can become healthier. By improving your Q score - and ultimately your health – you could receive a discount of up to 15% on your renewal premium.
Bupa also offers a range of online health tools and calculators to help people to keep fit and well.
"Customers can, for example, get access to our online Bupa knee clinic," says Alex Perry, director of healthcare provisioning at Bupa. "This has been used by more than 88,000 people since it launched last year. At the same time, Bupa Boost, our new digital platform, has been designed to help businesses create a proactive healthy culture, and to improve the health and well-being of their workforces."
In addition, Bupa's Coach programme provides direct phone-based access to a specialist team of nurses and dieticians to help customers suffering from heart conditions. The aim is to encourage people to improve their diet and lifestyle, helping to minimise future health risks.
"Health and wellbeing is very much at the heart of what we do," adds Perry. "We aim to go above and beyond just footing the bill where we can."
Elsewhere, with AXA PPP, a 5% discount is offered to non-smokers who subscribe to one of its Personal Health plans. Members can also benefit from a 25% discount on health assessments at BMI and Nuffield hospitals.
Emma Thomson, life office relationship director at adviser LifeSearch, is supportive of insurers offering added benefits of this nature.
"With insurance, people are paying for something they don't actually want to get tangible value from, as they don't want to ever have to claim," she says. "But by offering benefits that customers can use each year – such as discounted gym memberships and cashback for being active – customers feel they are getting value for money. This, in turn, means they are less likely to cancel valuable protection cover. At the same time, encouraging people to become more active is to be applauded, as it's a benefit to the wider society."
While this all sounds very positive, some feel there has not, as yet, been great take-up of such schemes.
"On the whole, the take-up rate for participation in insurer-led exercise is low," says Tom Conner, head of protection at insurance broker Drewberry. "This may be down to people starting with good intentions, which quickly fade. Equally, it may be down to this being a relatively new concept that isn't yet widespread among insurers."
While many would like to see more insurers offering reward schemes of this nature, it remains to be seen whether the industry is ready to follow in the footsteps of those firms which are leading the charge.
Private medical insurance
PMI allows you to skip the NHS waiting list and arrange treatment at a time you choose. With most PMI policies, you pay a monthly premium (the older you are, generally the higher premium) and the policy will then pay out, up to specified cover limits and after an agreed excess, for any treatment you might need. Not all conditions are covered by PMI and you get what you pay for: the more cover you want, the higher your premium will be.
Generally thought of as being interchangeable with life assurance, but isn’t. Life insurance insures you for a specific period of time, at a premium fixed by your age, health and the amount the life is insured for. If you die while the policy is in force, the insurance company pays the claim. However, if you survive to the end of the term or cease paying the premiums, the policy is finished and has no remaining value whatsoever as it only has any value if you have a claim. For this reason, life insurance is much cheaper than life assurance (also called whole of life).