Insurance companies are delaying the issuance of new policies to people who have had Covid-19, which medical unions say is deterring some doctors from getting tested for the virus.
Insurers including Aviva, Royal London and Legal & General have begun to question individuals seeking life insurance about Covid-19 and are putting applications on hold for up to 3 months if people indicate they are at risk.
The questions cover whether they are currently experiencing coronavirus symptoms, whether they have tested positive for the virus, and whether they have been in contact with someone whom they suspect had the virus.
The moves have sparked concerns among doctors’ groups that they will prevent physicians in high-risk roles from accessing life insurance.
They have also led to unease about taking coronavirus tests among some medical professionals, who were supposed to be at the forefront of the UK government’s testing strategy.
Dr Claudia Paoloni, president of HCSA, a hospital doctors’ union, said she knew of some doctors being deterred from getting coronavirus tests by questions from insurers.
“Insurers are placing organisations such as HCSA in an impossible position where as doctors we desperately want the testing regime to be as effective as possible, but as a union we may have to warn our members of the financial consequences of taking a voluntary test,” she added.
The British Medical Association, which represents healthcare workers, said it had investigated reports of doctors encountering trouble with insurance and concluded that some of the questions insurers asked were putting doctors at a disadvantage.
It said this week it had raised the issue with the Association of British Insurers, the main trade body for insurers.
Aviva said that it had added five new Covid-related questions to its life insurance applications to “take into account the risks the situation brings”. If a customer has symptoms or has recently tested positive for the virus, underwriting of the insurance will be delayed until the applicant has made a “full recovery”, it said.
The insurer Royal London said: “If a customer has a history of symptoms, self-isolation or a positive test in the last month, we’ll postpone offering cover.” It said the postponement would last until the customer had a negative coronavirus test, no symptoms, and requires no treatment.
Legal & General, which also added new questions, said there could be a “small delay and a request to reapply after a short period” if an applicant had experienced or been exposed to the virus, but that if an individual had received a positive antibody test and had no continuing symptoms, their application would be processed as usual.
“We would encourage all including NHS and care workers to apply as normal,” it said.
The Association of British Insurers said that applications for life assurance and income protection policies would usually be postponed until an individual who had tested positive for Covid-19 was symptom free for four weeks and back at work carrying out their full duties.
The ABI told the BMA in a letter that “doctors and healthcare workers will be treated the same as other workers when applying for life insurance or income protection” and that each application was assessed “on an individual basis” regardless of profession.
“We do not want to discourage people from taking appropriate tests in keeping with government policy to test and trace,” it added.
LV, another insurer, said it was deliberately not asking potential life insurance customers about contact with individuals suspected of having coronavirus as this “could unfairly exclude many people — particularly NHS workers — from accessing cover”.