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Divorcing women may drive new demand for private medical insurance


Following the news that the government will relax divorce laws in England and Wales to make the process easier and less confrontational, National Friendly, the mutual life and private medical insurer, thinks demand amongst women for products like private medical insurance could now rise.

Divorce rates amongst the over 50s and 60s, the so called “silver separators,” are on the rise, according to the Office for National Statistics. Between 2005 and 2015 the number of men divorcing aged 65 and over went up by 23% and the number of women of the same age divorcing increased by 38%. Further findings show that 13,000 women aged 55 and above divorced in 2016, while for men the figure was 19,454. With the new changes to divorce laws likely to make the process generally easier, these rates could climb yet further.

Statistics from Age UK, show that 40% of women aged 55-70 years are heavily dependent on their partners’ income for a decent retirement, often because they haven’t accumulated a considerable pension of their own due to career breaks to care for children or relatives and working part-time. Therefore the importance of financial protection for this cohort becomes considerable.

Wayne Carter, Head of Sales and Marketing at National Friendly thinks that these changes mean it will be important in the future, for women in particular, to ensure that they are appropriately insured with products such as private medical cover. “As increasing numbers of women are now finding themselves single and expected to pick up their careers again, the importance of staying healthy and having an income becomes pertinent to any new life plan. In this context it may be even more important for the newly divorced woman to ensure that, should she fall ill, she can have fast access to the best medical care.”

Other changes are expected to impact the demand for private health insurance amongst women too. As of 2018, the UK’s state pension age became 65 for both women and men, rising from the age of 63 for women in 2016. The state pension age will increase again in 2020 to age 66 for men and women. Should increasing numbers of women choose, or be obliged to remain in work due to financial hardships resulting from, for example, divorce, the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle increases.

Carter believes that this could trigger increased demand for a range of treatments, especially those where traditionally waiting times can have an impact on day-to-day living, which in the context of maintaining a salaried income, could become critical. “Typical conditions where private health insurance is perceived to offer a faster outcomes include operations such as hip and knee replacements,” says Wayne Carter. “In the year 2016-2017, just under 243,000 joint replacements were carried out, a figure which is generally agreed to be rising year-on-year. Carter believes that working women may be faced with a choice: wait up to 18 weeks or sometimes more for an NHS joint replacement operation, or go private, where the operation can usually be carried out far more quickly.”

Wayne Carter is certain that the societal changes that are happening are likely to push the female segment of the workforce ever more into the spotlight, with the result that this group will need more support from products such as private health insurance.

National Friendly is a trading name of National Deposit Friendly Society Limited. Registered office: 11-12 Queen Square, Bristol BS1 4NT. Registered in England and Wales no. 369F. National Deposit Friendly Society Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Our Financial Services Register number is 110008. You can check this at: National Deposit Friendly Society Limited is covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme and Financial Ombudsman Service.