UK Private Health Plan Coverage on the Rise

March 21, 2005 ( - Private medical coverage is becoming more common in the United Kingdom, with 51% of companies reporting that they cover all employees, up 10% from 2001.

According to a Mercer Human Resource Consulting survey on UK private health plans, companies are increasingly extending benefits to all workers to avoid discrimination claims from uncovered employees. This idea seems to extend to dependents as well: 25% of employers cover all dependents, while 61% cover a defined category of dependents. Only 11% do not cover dependents at all, according to the survey.

Although 29% do not covered unmarried partners, this is down significantly from 52% in 2001. The number of companies offering benefits to same-sex dependents is also on the rise. While 39% do not cover same-sex partners, this is much lower than the 56% seen only four years ago.

Three-quarters of the companies polled have also removed HIV/AIDS exclusions from their disability plans. However, of the companies that still include such exclusions, 75% state that they have no liability in the event of such claims.

Overall, 89% of companies provide company-funded life insurance, while 70% offer income protection and 10% cover critical illness coverage.

While 95% of employers in a 2001 survey suggested that improving return-to-work rates and attracting and retaining staff were the two main goals of private programs, the expected effects of such programs don’t seem to be panning out. Only 29% of employers stated in the more recent survey that private benefits brought workers back to the office quicker, while only 24% said that they helped attract and keep staff.

The trend of increasing private benefits seems likely to persist, according to employers in the survey. Only 9% of UK employers thought that recent changes – including increased funding and structural changes – in the National Health Service (NHS) would reduce pressure to provide such private health benefits to employees, according to the survey.