We’re back again with more expert insights on 2024 trends, and today the focus is health insurance. 

Health insurance trends

In the UK and across the world, we saw a turbulent 2023, defined by a slow re-emergence from the Covid-era. Alongside the myriad healthy lifestyle fads and trends – from supposedly healthier air fryers to intermittent fasting and, according to Bupa, an “11x increase in earwax removal near me” searches (more on this later) – we saw significant impact on the insurance industry from two macro factors. Demand for private health insurance is going up and premium growth is keeping pace. The events of 2023 have set up an even more important 2024 for insurers. This is particularly true for those positioned to capitalise on the new demand, but also those operating in the UK able to address the growing concerns with the UK’s NHS-led health system without skyrocketing private medical insurance (PMI) prices – arguably the better long-term strategy for building customer loyalty. 

Our team has long-standing experience working with insurers across the globe and specifically in the UK; Partner Danielle and Principal Harry offer their insight on the top three trends that health insurers will need to address both this year and moving forward if they want to remain competitive. 

At a glance

  1. We will see further acceleration in the growth of private medical insurance globally – health insurers will play an increasingly pivotal role in the UK healthcare system in particular
  2. This growth will be accompanied by continued increases in premiums, driven primarily by medical costs and claim frequency from more aware customers, but with cautious optimism we will see insurers differentiate themselves in how they respond 
  3. These dominant trends will start to be off-set by increasing diversity and innovation within new health insurance products, starting with the resurgence of health plans and solutions supporting self-managed care

A struggling healthcare system grows demand for PMI

It’s safe to say that the UK healthcare system is at a critical point, as with many other private-public models. The current state of the NHS is also the central underlying factor for the recent growth of PMI. There is a staggering amount of evidence to point to declining accessibility and quality of care for everyone across the UK; the NHS simply can’t continue delivering exceptional healthcare without the right funding and support. This has only been accelerated through the Covid years, with millions added onto waitlists and billions spent on equipment. The Health Foundation predicts the waitlist to top 8 million by mid-2024 – just one indicator of the mounting push factors. Combine long wait time with the fact that numerous treatments are being removed from NHS lists yearly (including the aforementioned ear wax removal – one of the less critical changes!), the options for those that need to guarantee access to all treatment options with short wait times are simple: either take out private medical insurance or consider a slowly expanding range of non-insurance options, like health plans. Health insurers have reported skyrocketing sales in 2023, with Aviva posting an increase of 58% in H1, and with 50 million adults without PMI in the UK, we expect an even higher growth rate in 2024.  

Health insurance premiums continue to increase

It is unavoidable that greater general awareness of the benefits PMI offers will generate higher policy usage and greater claims cost for insurers. Reuters reported a record £3 billion in UK health insurance claims for 2022 and 2023 totals are undoubtedly expected to top that once tallied. Throughout 2024, we will see rising medical costs and greater propensity to claim from an increasingly health-conscious population. Combine this with pricing and underwriting models that rely on outdated measures, and insurers’ expectations that delayed claims costs from Covid have not been fully addressed, some businesses will see no option but to increase premiums. As an industry, continually raising premiums year-over-year has always been a serious risk to renewals, particularly for larger employer schemes. Historically, price hikes are followed by a focus on cost-cutting and operating ratio improvements. However, with market driven demand seemingly disassociated with price, we are unfortunately still predicting to see premiums rise through 2024. The growth of health insurance premiums will directly reduce access to quality healthcare and only exacerbate health inequality. Hence, insurers bear the responsibility (and opportunity) to manage the escalating costs of PMI by fostering innovation, enhancing accessibility in health insurance offerings, amplifying flexibility and personalisation, or introducing entirely new solutions.

Innovative health solutions can rival PMI 

Let’s end with a more optimistic trend… This year, we expect to see a rise in non-insurance options that can directly address current health inequality. These will enable greater access to private healthcare or make everyday health more affordable. Significant growth, however, is only going to be seen if health insurers invest in designing new solutions, build more flexible platforms, or upgrade current product benefits through partnerships or curated health ecosystems. As with PMI, the demand is there, and we can predict a significant market for the insurer willing to move first. We have already seen investments being made throughout 2023 and expect new products to hit the shelves throughout the next year, compounding growth with a greater breadth of solutions addressing new segments.

Looking at the broader market today, take startups like UK based Huma, working to improve data to aid in preventative health care. This includes their ‘Hospital at Home’ platform and ongoing investments in AI promoting proactive patient engagement. Examples include myGP’s skin scanner, which can address the 18 million GP appointments and 2.1 million A&E visits for self-treatable conditions. Huma is not the only player inspiring innovation and driving towards new healthcare solutions. Dominant in dental and health plans, Simplyhealth remain committed to innovation through their venture capital fund ‘Simplyhealth Ventures’ featuring a portfolio of six early-stage businesses. Particularly promising here are investments into ecosystem partners that expand patient interaction and connect the patient journey, such as early diagnostics through Scan.com. Looking forward, we see health or cash plans remain the most affordable way to offset some health costs and are likely to see the most growth in this sector. This will be driven by more tactical pricing and low-cost options, attracting significant portions of lower income target markets, as well as attractive employer schemes addressing employees’ increasing demands for health benefits.  

These trends offer hope for both the UK healthcare system as a whole and for individual insurers able to re-position and therefore claim significant market share. With widespread private medical insurance and accessible solutions reaching more individuals, we hope to see some of the strain on public health diminish. Indeed, with recognition that the dominant health insurance products are now on less stable foundations, greater levels of product innovation and the rise of new challengers prioritising the customer experience are predicated for the year to come. For more on where to begin, look out for the remaining pieces in our insurance trends series. 

To ensure your strategy will put you ahead in the health insurance space connect with us:

Connect with our experts