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Ten things medical insurers must do to take advantage of NHS reform

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Whatever happens on the reform of the NHS, demand for healthcare is always going to increase faster than the NHS can provide it, however much more efficient it gets.


The general feeling is that over the next decade, the NHS will increasingly concentrate on urgent core services, leaving many things such as weight loss treatment, and people wanting quick non-urgent surgery to the private sector.


There has been much talk about how private medical insurance could benefit from this. But lets not kid ourselves, the % of the population paying for their own private medical insurance has been falling for a decade-once you strip out the figures for small businesses. Part of economic reform is to move people from the public sector to the private sector-with the number working for themselves by choice or necessity bound to increase.


So I have come up with ten things private medical insurers could do.


1 Accessibility


Ensure people can buy online not just via a computer, but from all modern hand held devices.


2 Pricing


Make it easy for potential customers to know exactly what the price is and buy instantly online. Stick to quoted prices at all costs. Comparison sites have been hammered for offering quotes that are indications only. When you shop for your food, you would be indignant if when you got to the till it was a higher price than on the shelf or on the can, so stop pretending insurance is special-it is simply another product.


3 Comprehension


Use language that non-insurance people understand. Keep it simple. Stop putting so many things in Capital Letters. Capitals are for names of people, places, products and companies- not for insurance or medical terms.


4 Stop using so many downloads


While some insurers make it easy for a potential customer to know what is and what is covered, for some insurers you have to download several documents to find the full information. Too many downloads turns people off .If buying from a mobile device-people cannot print out PDFs!


5 Avoid too many choices


While some people like choice, others will simply get confused. Confused customers either go elsewhere or buy from nobody.


6 Where are your value policies?


Supermarkets have made a bomb from low priced no frills food ranges sold as value ranges. Few insurers offer this, and those that do bundle value policies within a wider choice. A core cover option with alternatives, will sell less well than a simple value policy offering the same thing .It is all about presentation.


7 Quieten the bells and whistles


For far too long product development has been based on adding yet more ‘bells and whistles” to products. Often these features are rarely used. This is driven by comparison sites and the ridiculous practice of consultancies comparing products based on how many features rather than the price. It is like giving a star rating to a film based on how long it is rather than on how good it is.


8 Kick out the trash


There are many policies with so many features that are never or rarely used – so find out what features customers actually want and use –then ditch the rest.


9 Learn how to sell the modern way


Travel agents and retailers realize that the days of constant prices or long sales drives are over. They use flash sales that may last only a day or two, to promote products. But these have to be real flash sales, not the furniture sale that seems to never end. Flashes can be by product, by means of access, by post code, etc.


10 Offer price guarantees


Many customers have given up health insurance that goes up by 10% or so every year. When they were better off they moaned and put up with it, but with most people expecting their disposable income after paying essential bills to be less every year for the foreseeable future, insurers reputation for annual price hikes stops people making a purchase. Life insurers can offer five-year price guarantees, why cannot health insurers do the same?


Many insurance people reading this will come up with a long list of why each of my ideas will not work. But I heard the same thing for every product I developed as a broker, and the naysayers were always wrong. Consider this, people are not beating a path to your door to buy your products, and however badly the NHS reform is done, this is unlikely to change anytime soon. So new and radical ideas are needed now-what are you waiting for?
Health insurance hot topic: June 2011