In a market for private medical insurance (PMI) that has been in decline for some years, one of the significant barriers to purchase and continued use of PMI has been the complexity of the product and the lack of consumer focus.

Recent research by Tällt explored the views of 1,500 UK consumers and highlights the challenges that the industry faces:

  • 70% of consumers say their insurer is harder or no easier to do business with than 2 years ago
  • The main complaints against insurers are:
    • The claims process
    • Too much jargon
    • Lack of rewards for loyalty
  • Two thirds of consumers state that their PMI premium has increased in the past 12 months, with almost 40% not knowing why
  • 61% of consumers feel as though insurers deliberately make it hard for consumers to claim

As a purchaser of PMI for my own business, I know exactly how these consumers feel! Each year, our broker comes up with a proposal for our company plan the coming year. I’m an “industry expert”, but even to my expert eye, it’s a real challenge to make sense of what’s on offer.

Several trees were felled…

When I last went through the PMI/private healthcare experience, several trees were felled to support the process. Paper, paper everywhere..  from both sides, the insurer and the private hospital.

In contrast, my more recent experience under the NHS was a paper-free, technology driven experience.  Automated check in to the appointment, automated SMS reminders etc etc.

If we can’t make private healthcare easy for people to buy and use, how can we hope to grow the market? Historically, the health insurance business has lacked flexibility, been slow to innovate and to respond to what consumers have come to expect in other business areas. We need to make health insurance simpler and more transparent.

Light at the end of the tunnel?

One insurer seems to be taking a different tack and trying to give consumers and purchasers (both corporate and individual) what they want. The latest offering from WPA - Precision Corporate Healthcare - is aimed at delivering the simplicity, flexibility and innovation that the market is crying out for. They’ve exploited the available technology to make it easier for corporate purchasers to tailor health insurance to meet their company’s needs via an online digital interface, and for scheme members to access their cover and manage their claim via a mobile app.

Based on my first impressions of the new system at a recent WPA demo, it’s the way that all health insurers have to go. Buying health insurance should be as simple as falling off a log. And if we can dump all the paper, there may be enough logs left for us all to fall off…


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About the author

Keith Pollard is Executive chairman of LaingBuisson, an online publisher in the healthcare sector that operates market-leading web portals such as Private Healthcare UK and . LaingBuisson International Limited is also active in the online medical travel sector through Treatment Abroad, International Medical Travel Journal and DoctorInternet, the Arabic medical tourism portal. View for my full profile.

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