If you’re still sticking to your new year’s resolution – congratulations! If you’ve slipped, don’t lose faith – the key to long-lasting change is to make small specific gradual adjustments. Whether it’s improved fitness (Britain’s most popular NY resolution), weight loss, or drinking less alcohol, there are many good reasons to persevere.
Incentives include a lower risk of dozens of illnesses, and a good ten extra years in which to enjoy your retirement. But is more affordable health insurance amongst them? The answer is a little more complex than you might be hoping for, but it’s certainly worth looking into.
Surely a healthier lifestyle equates to a health insurance premium reduction?
There are always exceptions, but for most people, practising a healthy lifestyle – ie you’re active, eat plenty of veg, go easy on the booze, and avoid tobacco – significantly reduces the risk of miserable, costly diseases like stroke, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and depression (see footnote below) compared to drinkers, smokers and the chronically inactive. If you’re not often ill, your medical insurance provider won’t need to pay out so often for your healthcare than for someone with chronic disease.
But although science and economics tell us that a healthier customer will cost less to insure, the crucial question is will your medical insurance provider pass the cost savings on to you?
1. It depends how long you’ve been healthy
It would be nice if we could revolutionise our lifestyles, then call the underwriters to say “right, I quit smoking – now charge me less!”. Unfortunately with most providers it doesn’t work like that; with most individual health insurance plans, your health insurance renewal premiums will be significantly affected by how much you’ve claimed in previous years, and whilst there are other drivers such as your locations, and even smoker status on personal policies, your claims activity remains the holy grail of private medical insurance.
To put this into context, if you haven’t claimed since you set up your medical insurance policies (or recently) on your individual health insurance or business health insurance, the insurers won’t put your premiums up as much as if you’d claimed significantly on tests and treatment over the past five years.
So, a recent change in lifestyle is unlikely to affect your premiums significantly in the short term and result in health insurance cost savings straight away. It will over time – think of it as a long term investment, as your continued good health leads to fewer claims as the years go by.
There is cause for hope, however, that some lifestyle changes may lead more directly to health insurance premium reduction.
2. It depends on who you’re insured with
As a health insurance broker, we’re not in the business of promoting one medical insurance provider over any other unless doing so represents good value to the customer, but it’s impossible to write this article without mentioning the different products on offer. Insurance companies have a vested interest in encouraging a healthy lifestyle, but few of them actively reward it. However, Vitality have a Rewards Programme where greater discounts on various products increase when you engage and record your healthy activities, and this can also affect your renewal terms on personal policies, but only by up to 3% for the most committed.
Aviva offers up to 15% off renewal premiums for sending regular updates about your health – resulting in health insurance discounts. Their philosophy is that by reporting your habits and current wellbeing, you’ll become more self-aware, and make improvements.
The short answer:
Is yes, switching to a healthy lifestyle will result in health insurance cost savings – but that’s mostly in the long term. There’s a cumulative benefit over years, rather than any significant instant discount.