Obtaining a GP appointment within a reasonable timescale can be challenging at any time but in the current COVID-19 environment this may be even more difficult. Isolation and social distancing also means that only the most ill will actually want to be in an environment where others in poor health might be near by. Virtual GP services provide an excellent alternative for clients’ offering far quicker access to a GP from the comfort of their own home but which insurers offer such services and how do their offerings differ?
Currently, only a small number of providers offer access to GPs via their policies. The table below highlights the insurers’ that do offer such services and via which policies these are provided:
Up until recently Vitality only offered their GP service to clients with PMI, however due to the COVID-19 situation they have opened up access to all customers. As British Friendly, Guardian and The Exeter currently only offer Income Protection, Life and Critical Illness and Life and Income Protection policies respectively, this highlights that Legal & General are the only insurer out of the four that do not offer the service on their full product range.
Of the above providers, only Legal & General offer their GP service as a contractual benefit but unlike the others, their GP24 service comes at an additional cost of £3.25 per month. In addition to the GP service, the GP24 service also offers a private consultation concierge service which helps clients’ locate private consultants, specialists and hospitals.
In an ideal world, our clients will remain healthy and not need to access a GP, however if a client is suffering from a chronic ailment that might require them to contact a GP several times it is useful to understand the limits insurers’ may place on their GP services. AIG, Legal & General and Guardian offer unlimited access to their GPs whereas British Friendly limit usage to 6 appointments per annum, LV= limit usage to 5 appointments per year and The Exeter limit usage to 4 times per annum.
Use of GP services can extend beyond the life assured, some providers also allow members of the immediate family to access the benefit. The chart below shows who each provider makes their GP services available to:
All providers allow the life assured’s children to use their GP services however, each provider has a different rule on the maximum age to which they can access the benefit. LV=, AIG, Legal & General and British Friendly will provide their service to children up to the age of 16, 21, 22 and 23 respectively. Guardian and The Exeter on the other hand do not set a limit on the age at which children of the life assured can access the benefit.
GP services can provide access to GPs through multiple communication channels. As it is not always practical for a client to fit a face to face meeting in their schedule (and for many not possible in the current environment), being able to contact a GP online or over the phone can be helpful. Some providers also enable clients to send messages to GPs adding greater flexibility. The chart below details how providers offer their GP services:
Each insurer that offers virtual GP services have their own merits and it is encouraging that all insurers with the exception of Legal & General provide this at no additional cost and across their full product range. AIG, British Friendly, Guardian, Legal & General and The Exeter should also be commended for allowing the life assured’s spouse and children access the service.