But the individual market continues to shrink

The corporate private medical insurance (PMI) market continues to grow while the individual market has suffered a slight dip, according to the latest figures from the ABI.

The ABI report shows that the number of people covered by PMI has broken the six million mark for the first time in five years, with a total of 6,004,000 people covered in 2007 under corporate or personal policies, an increase of 2.13% from 5.8 million in 2006.

“It’s good news that the popularity of private medical insurance continues to grow,” Nick Starling, ABI director of general insurance and health said. “Health insurance gives people access to the treatment they need, when they need it, offers greater privacy and better facilities, and reduces pressure on the NHS.”

Of the number of people with PMI, 4.34 million are covered by corporate policies, which is an increase of 3.65% on the previous year. In contrast, individual policies fell to 1.66 million, a decline of 1.66% on 2006.

But the rate of decline in individual policies is slowing. According to Bupa, the year-on-year trend used to be a 3% drop in individual PMI. Dissatisfaction with the NHS is been considered a key reason for the slowdown.

An ABI spokesman said: “I think people are starting to see PPI more and more as something that’s not designed to replace the state but rather dovetail the NHS.”

But the growth of corporate health cover is also seen as a contributing factor to the slight decline.

A spokesman for PMI insurer WPA said individual PMI insurers should focus on their strengths. He said: “The health insurance market for individuals may be contracting slowly but WPA is growing in the areas where we want to grow. For instance, we saw nearly 30% growth in the number of self-employed customers in 2007.”