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National Fitness Day – How do insurers help improve a clients’ fitness?

National Fitness Day – How do insurers help improve a clients’ fitness?

Tomorrow marks national fitness day across the UK, which is designed to raise awareness of the importance of leading a healthier and active lifestyle. Regular exercise can help reduce the risk of major illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer by up to 50% and even lower the risk of death by 30%. Whilst protection plans are designed to provide financial support if someone’s health fails, it makes a lot of sense for such plans to encourage clients to lead a healthier lifestyle and in this article w look at which insurers offer fitness support. 

The message from the Government’s new anti-obesity campaign is how a conscious to be fit and healthy can prevent all sorts of health problems.

The Prime Minister’s efforts to get people losing weight through cycling has grabbed the headlines because too much weight increases the risk of being seriously ill or dying from COVID-19. Getting the nation fit enough to fight the virus will ease the strain on the NHS, so everybody wins.

Some insurers have been promoting similar messages for years through value-added benefits on their protection products. Policies are bought to provide financial support if the worst happens, but insurers also want to offer benefits, at no extra cost, that people can access at other times. An example of this is a fitness service. These help people to eat well, stay active and take care of their mental wellbeing, which helps to prevent conditions that are caused, or aggravated by factors such as lifestyle.

Not every insurer provides access to fitness services but those who do tend to do things differently to others. For example, one company will have a wellbeing app, while another will run video service staffed by health professionals.

RedArc
Guardian, Royal London & Scottish Widows
Teladoc Health
AIG
LifeWorks
British Friendly
Health Assured
AEGON
Square Health
The Exeter
Various
Vitality

 

As our table shows, insurance companies tend to partner with specialist third-party providers to deliver fitness services rather than doing it themselves. RedArc, which works with Royal London, Scottish Widows and Guardian, focuses on practical advice and emotional support in situations such as coping with illness or bereavement. Teladoc Health, AIG’s fitness service provider, specialises in virtual healthcare by phone and video. Lifeworks, partner of British Friendly, and Health Assured – Aegon’s partner  – both promote health and wellbeing. Finally, Square Health, which works with The Exeter, was set up specifically to help insurers with healthcare and related issues in technology and claims.

Vitality are quite different however as they partner with a range of companies and sporting stars and embed healthy living into the very core of their plan. Vitality aim to encourage healthly living within their clients’ day to day life and incentivise clients by offering discounts on additional services such as coffee, cinema and big brands if they earn “Vitality points”. Earning these points can be as simple as walking a certain amount of steps each day, getting a health check or taking part in one of their organised runs.

Fitness services may be available only at the point of claim but most offer wider access at any time to help reduce the risk of illness. Guardian is the only insurer to restrict its service to the point of claim. However, it makes sense to offer RedArc’s services when someone has been diagnosed with a serious illness and may be dealing with other problems on top.

The majority of insurers cover the full cost of fitness services, with British Friendly being the only exception. Digging a little deeper into what is offered, its partner, Lifeworks, provides a wellbeing app which would not have the same level of costs as a support service staffed by health professionals.

Another point of differentiation between fitness services is that some are only available to the lives assured while others also allow access to their partners and/or children. Our table shows that most insurers with fitness services don’t restrict access to the lives assured. However, those giving access to children of the lives assured have different age criteria for this. Again with Vitality, whilst many of the services and the “Vitality” points a client can achieve are restricted to the life assured, they also offer a host of video and other content which the clients’ wider family could use. 

Of the other insurers with fitness services, Guardian and The Exeter’s managed life product have the most generous terms as they have no maximum age for children. British Friendly, Royal London and AIG have limits of age 23 and 21 respectively, while Aegon has set vastly different maximums – 16 and 24 – depending on whether children are in full-time education or not.

When it comes to allowing a plan holder to access fitness services if they are not the life assured, insurers take different views. While Aegon and AIG do allow this, British Friendly and Guardian do not.

AEGON
AIG
British Friendly
Royal London
The Exeter (Managed Life Only)
Life Assured(s) partner/spouse/civil partner
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Children
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Max age for children
16 or 24 if in full time education
21
23
23
No Max

There are various ways to deliver fitness services in the digital age and while some insurers use every way they possibly can, others may focus on one or two channels, particularly where their partner firm’s expertise is best delivered in a specific format.

A good example of this is Guardian, which is the only insurer to offer its service face-to-face. As mentioned earlier, RedArc – its partner firm – is a specialist in one-to-one advice and support. Given the highly personal nature of the conversations people are likely to have with RedArc’s nurses, face-to-face is an option that those using the service will expect.

A video conference may be seen as the next best thing to a face-to-face meeting and a couple more insurers – AIG and The Exeter – join Guardian in offering services through this method. Aegon, British Friendly and VitalityLife do not offer their services this way but have reasons for not doing so. Both British Friendly and VitalityLife provide online and app-based services (British Friendly’s service is also over the phone) and Aegon’s service is online only, so video conferencing isn’t required.

Online fitness services are very popular among insurers but an interesting point that comes out of our table is that having an online service does not necessarily mean an insurer will also have an app-based version.  For example, Aegon’s service is online but it does not have an app. Similarly, The Exeter’s service for its managed life product is available through an app, but not online.

For some insurers, the way to encourage positive behaviour in terms of being – and staying – healthy is to incentivise clients to do all the right things. Offering discounts on gym memberships is one way to achieve this, as costs tend to be expensive. However, insurers are evenly split on this, which it is perhaps a reflection of how some people go to the gym while others will prefer a jog in the local park. People are different, so insurers cannot be identical.

Once a client has had their consultations through a fitness service, the insurer can send the details to the client’s GP, but only with their consent. This can help the GP build a clearer picture of the client’s needs and provide a base for further conversations, referrals, treatment or a plan of action.

Most insurers will do this, but Aegon and VitalityLife will not. This is perhaps a reflection of the online/app-based services they offer, but their health check results can still be used by clients to bring up matters with their GP themselves.

The fact that Vitality embed fitness into the core of their plans and employ famous sports stars and a wide range of materials really shows their desire to improve the health and wellbeing of their clients. The level of engagement in their services also highlight how well they do it and in this area they are second to none. 

About The Author

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As well as writing for Protection Guru, Amanda Newman Smith is the feature writer at adviser trade publication Money Marketing. She started her career at a local newspaper in London and has been writing about protection products since 2000. In her previous role at Money Marketing she specialised in analysis of new financial products, including those in the protection market. Having recently become interested in antiques, Amanda spends her free time with her husband and their three children, hunting for unloved pieces to restore to their former glory.

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