Blue monday – how providers’ mental health support compares
Today is ‘Blue Monday’ which is claimed to be the most depressing day of the year. It’s origin comes from the fact that we’ll probably have bad weather, we still have dark nights, Christmas is over, there’s a long stretch to next pay-day and many New Year’s resolutions have failed. This year of course we can add in the tremendously different and difficult lifestyle that the pandemic brings which means ever increasing numbers of people may be facing mental health challenges this year.
Mental health is recognised as the single largest cause of disability in the UK, significantly higher than cancer or heart disease and affects one in four people every year. The total economic costs of mental ill health in England has been estimated at more than £105 billion each year and with the emotional and psychological suffering often impossible to calculate, considering the financial burden can also be pretty eye-watering. But protection clients are not without support. As we consider ‘Blue Monday’ in this article we examine the support offered by providers to help you in your client conversations
Of the leading providers offering mental health support provision, only Cirencester Friendly and Holloway Friendly include this particular benefit as contractual. All providers say the benefit could be accessed any time, except Guardian, which specified the benefit could be accessed “on notification of a potential claim”.
Across the list of providers, 16 areas of focus are covered. These include bereavement, stress, suffering marital / or relationship problems and the more common anxiety and depression. Other issues covered include coping with a serious incident, such as a suicide attempt and debt. Providers also offer support for customers with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), phobias or addiction, and they might delve into psychiatry, psychology, psychotherapy, phobia or trauma therapy, treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well as stress and anxiety.
As our chart shows, the vast majority of the providers offer support services on all of these areas, but there are couple of notable exceptions. LV does not cover addiction, while Zurich will not offer support for psychiatry, psychology, psychotherapy, phobia therapy, trauma therapy or PTSD treatment. Guardian will offer access to RedArc nursing support and Royal London also covers drug or alcohol dependency or abuse, physical or mental abuse and adds the quite comprehensive-sounding “any form of mental ill health”.
One size of treatment rarely fits all in this context and it is good to see that many providers offer a range of therapy types.
* Holloway Friendly takes a more bespoke route, saying they offer therapies on a “case by case” basis.
Access to services
Aware that everyone’s communication preferences differ widely, especially when tackling sensitive issues, there are several ways in which the insurance community will offer access to their support.
As our chart shows, offered by all 13 providers, telephone is the most popular option, perhaps unsurprisingly, as a more traditional and cost-effective mode of communication. Video call is the second most popular, with 11 providers giving their assistance in this way. Face-to-face support is available from 9 providers whilst 8 offer online support
AIG, Aviva and VitalityLife, for instance, offer online support but do not include a face-to-face option; conversely LV=, Royal London, Scottish Widows and The Exeter offer face-to-face support but nothing online. LV= offers a Health e-hub that is available as an app or online as part of their web-based support package. Holloway Friendly will offer an initial telephone call, followed by treatment methods that are subject to the needs of the individual circumstance.
When it comes to cost, 8 providers cover the total cost of their mental health support benefits. Several will cap their levels of cover
- Cirencester Friendly and Royal London, for instance, both will cover costs to a maximum of £350, while VitalityLife will cap at £2,000
- The Exeter says it will pay the full cost of up to six mental health treatment sessions but anything thereafter would need to be discussed with the service provider.
- Holloway Friendly will contribute on a case by case basis, not indicating any maximum or total liability
- Scottish Widows underlined its commitment to covering all costs by saying “We always look to support each individual in line with their needs.”
Only two of the 13 providers said they only cover the life assured; Holloway Friendly and VitalityLife. All the rest offer cover for their spouse, civil partner or partner and all except Cirencester Friendly would also extend the benefit to include the children of the life assured, however the stated restrictions over permitted ages of the children varied, listing ages from 21, 21 only if in full-time education, to 23, or 23 if in full-time education and living at the same address. Two providers – Guardian and Zurich – gave no upper age limit, while Cirencester Friendly does not include the children of the life assured under their policy terms. LV= specifies its cover extends to spouse, partner, civil partner or permitted children only for its Member Care Line services, rather than its doctor services. Three providers – AIG, Royal London and Scottish Widows – said their benefits would also include the plan holder, if that were different to the named life assured.
If concerns over confidentiality exist, four providers said they would not share details of any consultation with the individual’s GP, whereas nine said they would with consent.
This year is expected to produce a huge impact on the mental health of the nation. While the range of conditions and causes vary widely and are sadly becoming a growing concern across all sectors of society, it is good to see that that levels of support are also expanding at a quickening pace. We like the wide range of services cover by providers and most cover similar levels of services. Clearly those insurers that offer a wider range of therapies for a large range of root causes are more beneficial as they will be able to support a wider range of clients. A family member suffering from mental ill health can have a dramatic effect on one’s life so it is also good to see many insurers offering support to close family members.
In concluding, it’s vitally important that advisers ensure their clients are made, and remain, fully aware of the wide range of support services that their protection plan makes available in these difficult times. With such a vast array of added value benefits today’s policies really are so much more than something providing a payout on an event based claim.