RGA provides quarterly updates on global product developments, which can be made available upon request. Click here to view the Q2 2019 digital newsletter.
Changing landscape of insurance offerings to seniors
In 2017 the number of people aged 60 years or older comprised 13% of the global population. By 2050 the world’s population is expected to reach 9.8 billion, and the number of people aged 60 or over is projected to rise to 2.1 billion, making up 22% of the global population. In the developed world, an elderly or senior person is generally accepted as being 65 years of age.
Historically, health plans for seniors have provided coverage for diseases that for the most part fall under movement, sensory, and urinary disorders. Not anymore. Health offerings are changing, and they will have to adapt even more in the future in response to not only the changing demographics but also to the evolved understanding of the health and well-being of a person, which now encompasses emotional and financial well-being, as well as physical.
The notion of pre-existing conditions might disappear, and this may well become the norm rather than the exception. The existing and future products must be looked at in conjunction with smart technology and the development of smart homes. It is regarded as beneficial to keep the elderly in their homes for as long as possible, not only for health and wellness reasons but also for economic ones. The cost of putting elderly people into residential homes far outweighs the cost of keeping them in their own homes. Our health is a precious commodity; however, it can be adversely affected by our lifestyle to date, genetic predisposition, and any accidents we have had throughout our lifetime.
In response to the ageing population, insurers are now offering healthcare insurance plans that cover up to 80 years or even 100 years of age. Some of the plans have special provisions to cover advanced medical care, such as cataract surgery.
In the UK, there are cash plans designed for the over seventies that help cover the costs of dental work, glasses, foot care, physiotherapy and chiropody. The plans also cover a contribution towards hearing tests. There is no upper age limit. Several insurers also offer private health insurance cover with no upper age limit, including some for which no medical evidence is required.
In India, many banks, in conjunction with insurers, offer health insurance policies for their account holders. The issue age is 65 years but can be as high as 80 years of age. The policy offers cashless treatment at network hospitals and coverage of pre-existing illnesses after a waiting period, usually of one to three years.
Silver Care, Silver Secure, and Silver Protect are just some of the names for critical illness plans for the elderly offered by insurers. The plans have been designed to allow for pre-existing conditions such as cancer, dementia and Parkinson’s disease, as well as the diseases that are likely to affect seniors in the future. Insurers are now extending the age limit for these plans up to 100. An innovative plan can also include a 12-month special care program to help families learn the caregiving skills required for coping with an elderly loved one who requires assistance.
In China, a medical reimbursement product offers a free medical check-up especially designed for seniors.
Some insurers have launched health products that relate specifically to diseases such as dementia. They offer benefits when a person is diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Others offer a simplified dementia lump sum rider. A walk-through dementia app developed by Alzheimer’s Research UK was created to demonstrate symptoms that pose challenges to people living with dementia. The app shows three daily life situations: shopping at the grocery store, walking a path and being at home.
With the emergence of telehealth, the elderly can now see their GP from the comfort of their own homes. In the U.S., health insurers offer through their Medicare health plans additional services that cater to the needs of the elderly such as House Calls, a program which allows participants to receive an annual wellness check-up at home.
Care n’Care health plan is a community outreach initiative designed to engage local seniors in programs and activities that promote healthy living and decrease in isolation. The plan Care n’Care offers physical activities such as tai chi water aerobics, social activities such as coloring classes and lunch groups and educational talks offering healthcare and safety tips from experts in the community.
Insurers are now looking at partnerships within all areas of healthcare as well as with technology firms that offer smart healthcare and technology-enabled healthcare solutions.
In the U.S., insurers have partnered with pharmacies such as Walgreens to offer senior-focused clinics. These clinics will offer pharmacy information from Walgreens together with information from health insurers on topics such as fitness classes and diabetes education.
In China, where the dominant players in the health insurance market are domestic insurers, many are now investing in private hospital operations and health centers. Some are also forming joint ventures with technology firms such as Neusoft Xikang Healthcare Technology. Neusoft aims to integrate community health centers, hospitals, pharmacies and third-party diagnostics laboratories. Insurers are also investing in retirement homes at the high end. These retirement homes aim to offer onsite facilities such as a hospital, church, cinema and gym. Insurers in Japan operate nursing homes for the elderly and provide visiting services through their subsidiaries.
In Europe, a large insurer has teamed up with a domestic health insurer and technology company to form an “insurance as a service” for the elderly, regardless of their medical history. It provides access to accident and death insurance up to age 100. In addition, it offers a 24/7 teleconsultation hotline to medical professionals.
These days there is some form of smart technology for nearly every health crisis you may face. For the elderly there are smartphones that can detect cognitive decline smart pillboxes that can track medical adherence, smart shoes that can detect and report falls, smart wristbands that can assist dementia patients, and smartphones especially designed for the elderly and visually challenged.
Looking ahead, smart technology incorporating Bluetooth will use sensors to keep track of patients and report changes in routines. Technology that provides assistance for navigating around the house and performing daily tasks such as cleaning, cooking and climbing stairs will help people stay independent in their later years. Health technology will be integrated into homes so that families can monitor the nutritional content of their refrigerators as well as schedules for medications.
Technology includes sensors that can measure how a patient gets out of bed. Such sensors are examples of the ways smart homes can monitor a person’s patterns. Sensors can measure things such as a patient’s gait. Changes in a patients gait may indicate early signs of a problem wither with mobility or memory. Kraydel is a small device that sits on top of the TV and links elderly people to relatives/carers helping them stay independent longer. The hub is specifically designed for those less comfortable with technology. Smart products help the elderly to maintain an independent lifestyle while being monitored for sudden or gradual impairments, both physical and cognitive.
With longer life expectancies for people across the globe, insurers will need to continue to offer insurance products that are affordable and sustainable while competing in a marketplace where coverage is becoming more comprehensive to higher age limits. They will also need to keep a close eye on technology and the smart products that are already changing the insurance landscape.
Stay tuned for future releases of our quarterly newsletter to see where the next innovations will take us.