PMI insurers see employees rushing to benefit from corporate medical schemes

Private medical insurance (PMI) claims are soaring because policyholders are taking advantage of corporate benefits before a recession kicks in.

Standard Life Healthcare chief executive Mike Hall said there had been a rush for claims.

He attributed this to instability in the current economy and a lack of confidence in the financial markets.

Hall, who is also chairman of the Association of British Insurers' (ABI) private medical insurance committee, said: "Employees are fearful for the future of their jobs at the moment and are rushing out to get their niggles fixed."

Bupa head of business and intermediary sales Anne Greenwood said the company had started to see an increase in claims since last October.

She said the increase had not been across the board, but that PMI claims had risen in the IT sector, which had experienced much more economic instability.

"We are trying to unpick the reasons for there being more claims and know it's not just due to one factor," she said.

"One reason may be that there has been a big change in the case mix. Five years ago, you did not have to pay for dental treatment, but now many people are paying for it privately."

She said clients were also expanding in the corporate PMI market.

However, a spokesman for AXA/PPP Healthcare said the company had seen no such indication of an increase in claims and no change in a claiming pattern.

"Things appear to be pretty good," he said.

"Large corporations still regard PMI as a key part in employee benefit."