The short answer is “yes”, but it will require imagination and commitment to do so. Chancellor Rishi Sunak is reported to have asked Treasury officials to approach the insurance industry over potential new products to help fund social care.
An imaginative industry would have already been working on such products, as discussions on reforms to the NHS and Social Care system have been taking place for decades with successive governments backing away from taking any actions they believed would damage them politically.
It is not as if there are not plenty of global examples of insurance supported health systems – think Australia, France etc – that produce better outcomes for patients than the broken UK system.
Yet the industry has proved reluctant to get involved other than through annuity, life insurance and equity release schemes. These include so called immediate needs annuity where people pay a lump sum in return for regular income that can cover care needs.
But the problem with equity release is that it requires people to stay in their own homes and thus is not suitable for funding residential care.
What is needed now is proper thought-through policies that allow people to pay a monthly premium in the knowledge they are building a pot of money for use when it is needed to pay for the care they will need in old age.
Obviously, it may be possible to adapt private health insurance policies to reflect this need, but not everyone will be able to afford what are likely to be the subsequent increases in premiums. Most cannot afford private health insurance in the first place.
Financial institutions have begun to look at getting involved in the housing markets with the intention of developing affordable homes for rent. We also have auto enrolment pensions.
So surely it is not beyond the insurance industry’s collective ability to devise a policy or policies in cooperation with government that will not only help and encourage people to prepare for when they will need social care but also help fund the increasing demands on the NHS?
Paul Quade is a director at City Road Communications