The evolution of health insurance is likely to continue, characterised by an increasingly international scope and scientific considerations. Ron Buchan gives his insights
Before sub-specialities had evolved 20 to 30 years ago, every major city in the UK had at least two general hospitals and each one had two to three general surgeons who could do most procedures.
This meant that every patient could be treated locally. Today, if patients have to see a specialist, they will have to travel to see them as each hospital cannot afford to employ a full roster of sub-specialists.
With each specialist having a narrower skills focus, patients are seeing a greater number of people over a wider geographical area.
This is a trend set to continue with the emergence of even more sub-specialists. So if a patient in Birmingham needs to have a particular procedure, they may no longer go to their local hospital in Birmingham they may end up seeing a specialist in Newcastle or even abroad.
In the USA, it is already quite common for someone needing specialist medical attention to go to a neighbouring state.
With patients’ increased mobility and treatment progressively being sourced internationally, the lines between local and international health insurance are increasingly becoming blurred.
In the mid-term, the next major shift will be a greater reliance on the private sector in the provision of healthcare instead of relying predominantly on the public sector.
National healthcare systems face resource pressures, not helped by the global recession, as well as a future of increasing healthcare demands due to an ageing population.
These challenges unite all world regions, with every country and government moving at a different pace towards a healthcare system characterised by a greater reliance on private sector provision, delivery and financing, as well as a public sector which takes on more of a regulatory role.
For example, while the UK has traditionally had one of the most publicly orientated healthcare delivery systems, the private sector is increasingly being managed into the process, as there is an insufficient support base of tax-paying earners to cover the costs.
This shift will result in the emergence of partnerships between public and private providers as well as financiers who will influence the way in which healthcare is financed and delivered.
For instance, some of Allianz Worldwide Care’s (AWC) clients are requesting more flexible plans that provide cover as a ‘top-up’ to that provided by local social security systems, to avoid duplication of cover and unnecessary costs.
AWC has partnership agreements in place in France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands to support top-up plans.