According to RedArc, holistic and personalised support for as long as is needed – similar to that already provided by insurers for conditions such as cancer, ME and diabetes – is required for Long Covid. This condition currently affects approximately 60,000 people in the UK* and is characterised by a variety of physiological and psychological issues, including fatigue, breathlessness, cognitive blunting (‘brain fog’) and pain and inevitably the number of sufferers will continue to rise.
Christine Husbands, managing director for RedArc, said: “This is clearly an emerging situation and one which is likely to be challenging for insurers, in terms of dealing with claims and underwriting for this new relatively unknown condition and its long-term implications. Offering practical help and emotional support for those diagnosed with the condition will help ensure the right people receive the best possible support for their individual symptoms, as well as helping to reduce the potential size and incidence of claims for the condition.”
Types of support
As well as the known physical ailments associated with Long Covid, the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)**, has raised concerns about the potentially huge psychological impact of the condition, which includes patients suffering from post-intensive-care syndrome and post-viral fatigue syndrome.
Therefore, insurer support needs to be holistic, combining practical advice to manage the varying physical symptoms, signposting to appropriate NHS medical care and services, and timely provision of relevant therapies as well as emotional support to deal with the psychological impact.
Some examples of specific external interventions are:
- Respiratory physiotherapy – breathing exercises/techniques
- Occupational therapy – pacing to manage fatigue and help with memory problems
- Complementary therapy – to aid sleep and reduce stress
- Talking therapies – to help with fear, anxiety and low mood and other psychological impacts
- Physiotherapy – post Covid MSK pain
As the symptoms are variable and fluctuating, any care and support needs to be tailored to the patient’s specific needs at that particular time with the flexibility to adapt as necessary.
Christine Husbands said: “The need for emotional support cannot be underestimated, particularly in these times when social interaction is so limited. The ability to rely on close family and friends for support during times of ill health has been taken away from many people, leaving them unable to cope with their symptoms in isolation and in desperate need of human support.”
Many insurers already have relevant support in place
In the paper ‘Long Covid’: evidence, recommendations and priority research’* authored by doctors from Oxford University and Royal Berkshire Hospital, recommendations were made for a four-tier clinical service to be developed for Long Covid patients. The recommendations ranged from tier one support which was mainly focussed on resources and support for self-care, through to community-based interdisciplinary rehabilitation in tier two, and specialist management of specific conditions in tier four.
Many insurers already have this layered approach to support in place for other conditions and so it could be easily adapted and proactively communicated to ensure that those with Long Covid also receive the support they need.
Christine Husbands said: “It’s true to say that for an unfortunate few, Long Covid is serious and potentially life-threatening but for most, it is likely to be a long-term chronic condition that could prevent them returning to their working life or normal activities for some time.
“Insurers are right to prepare themselves for a potential uptick in claims and this needs to include a comprehensive programme of support for those affected. In fact, those insurers who encourage their customers to access a Long Covid support programme may see positive results in their claims data too as it can mitigate the chances of deterioration.”