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Positive antibody tests must not ‘disadvantage’ GP life insurance, warns BMA

The BMA has warned that GPs’ applications for life insurance must not be ‘disadvantaged’ by positive antibody test results.

In guidance updated last week, the BMA said that some insurers may not yet distinguish between antibody and antigen testing and therefore could result in an application being ‘deferred’.

This is due to the ‘recent’ development of antibody testing, it added.

It said: ‘We are not aware of any cases so far of members having applications for insurance deferred on the basis of a positive antibody test. 

‘However, we do know of examples where doctors’ applications for life insurance and income protection are being deferred (for a time period with recovery) on the basis of a positive antigen test for Covid-19.’

Rather than refusing applications for those who have recently had coronavirus, ‘most’ insurers are requiring applicants to be working and symptom-free for between one and three months before considering approval, the BMA said.

The guidance added: ‘The BMA is clear that a positive antibody test should confer no disadvantage to a doctor’s application, and neither should an antigen test if a person is fully recovered and is beyond the timescale for recovery.’

The BMA has written to the Association of British Insurers to seek ‘clarity and reassurance’ from the industry that applications from healthcare workers such as GPs are considered ‘fairly’, it said.

It has also asked its financial partner Chase de Vere to compile a list of insurers who are ‘sensitive to the situation doctors and healthcare workers find themselves in’ during the pandemic, the BMA said.

GPs are ‘strongly advised’ to seek independent financial advice if applying for a new life insurance or income protection policy, the guidance said.

However, it is ‘essential’ that GPs are not discouraged from having an antigen test if they have symptoms of coronavirus,  it added.

Dr Sean Morris, a GP in London, told Pulse:  ‘This feels like a real slap in the face for healthcare professionals. We’ve put our health at risk during the pandemic and now we risk being penalised financially going forward.

‘Already I know of multiple cases where GPs are refusing the test due to the potential insurance implications. I worry about how the uncertainty will affect NHS strategy to beat the virus.’

He added: ‘We need the Government to act now to prevent financial companies from requesting this very personal information. More widely the implications could be huge if patients start thinking twice before agreeing to testing.’

In April, the Government announced its coronavirus life assurance scheme, which offers the families of NHS staff who die with Covid-19 a one-off £60,000 payout.

However, the move was criticised as a ‘kick in the teeth’ amid calls for full death-in-service benefits to be extended to all doctors, including those who are not currently part of the NHS pension scheme.

It comes as it was revealed last week that the Government’s new test and trace programme, launched last month, was unable to reach a third of coronavirus cases in its first week.

Meanwhile, Pulse revealed that GPs are not obliged to offer antibody tests to patients after they were told in May that they could begin offering tests to patients who ‘wished’ to know if they’d had the virus and were having bloods taken anyway.