Greater Victoria private health insurers saved $45 million during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. (Black Press Media file photo)

Greater Victoria private health insurers saved $45 million during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. (Black Press Media file photo)

$45 million saved by Victoria private health insurers during pandemic

Despite a 71 per cent decrease in payouts, premiums remained the same.

Private health insurers in Greater Victoria saved $45.4 million in unclaimed health care benefits between mid-May and mid-June this year, according to comparison platform Hello Safe.

In a normal three-month period, private health insurers would make $63.9 million in payouts, but this year that number was only $18.4 million.

The drastic drop in payouts is the result of closed services and cancelled appointments, as residents hunkered down during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

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“With the virus circulating outside, many preferred to postpone their pending medical needs in order to avoid being exposed to contagion,” said Antoine Fruchard, CEO of Hello Safe, in a statement.

“Besides, others felt the need not to overload the Canadian medical system in a moment when the private and public health care capacities were at a critical point.”

B.C.-wide, private health insurers saved $632 million, and Canada-wide they saved $4.8 billion.

Nationally, this amount indicates a 71 per cent decline in payouts compared to a normal year.

Medical clinics were quick to switch to video and call-in appointments, and thus only saw a 32 per cent decline in appointments compared to the same period in 2018.

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However, specialized clinics that were often unable to provide their services saw a 73 per cent decline in appointments. Optical and dental appointments saw a 90 per cent drop.

Insurance companies are now having to decide how, or if, they will reconcile the 71 per cent drop in payouts that occurred while their premiums remained the same.

As of mid-September, no Canadian health insurance company has made a move to refund customers for this period of largely inaccessible services.

“I’m not sure there is a lot of pressure,” said Fruchard. “The public may not be very informed.”

Fruchard said he hopes Hello Safe’s report will help inform people better, and encourages people to research and compare all their insurance options.


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