Jason Sadler of Cigna discusses his company's approach to healthcare with Paul Robertson.
The recent Sickness Absence Review recommended the government offer tax relief on company PMI policies, but not income protection. A lot of industry commentators have suggested that this could bring about a rehabilitation form of income protection (IP) products, in other words, it will be an occupational health insurance. With his global hat on, does Sadler see that happening here or elsewhere?
“I think that in a number of the markets, including the UK, absenteeism from work is clearly an increasing concern for employers. “In fact a lot of focus, particularly from our US business – although we are looking at how it can be brought into the other markets – is on wellness programmes, which are becoming much more popular.”
But are these wellness programmes core, or are they an ancillary to protect investment in the insurance?
“I would say in the US they are very much core. In other markets they are more emerging, very much in the early stages of development.
“Basically these comprise online health assessments and programmes in terms of diet, stress management, those types of things. They give people incentives by participating in those programmes to get lower costs for healthcare.
“However, it is a cultural thing. Again, in the Asian markets, Chinese medicine and those types of things are much more relevant to those types of people. You have to be able to adapt that accordingly.”
Of course all this hinges on keeping PMI costs down and medical inflation remains a global problem. Is this a worldwide problem? “Medical inflation remains a global issue,” Sadler confirmed.
“Typically a figure often quoted is 10% per annum. Which means it is growing at a multiple of normal inflation. And this comes back to why things like wellness programmes are actually very important, but proactively managing the claims aspect is very important as well.
“Making sure people have the right treatments at the right time, and I know sometimes that’s an area where perhaps insurance companies do sometimes get criticised, is trying to do the right thing by the customer.
“Because ultimately, if claims costs continue to rise and go out of control, that is going to end up feeding back to the consumer. So anything that we can do in terms of helping to manage and control that does help the consumer.”
Having just flown in from Hong Kong, Sadler could be forgiven if he was not up to speed on Bupa’s controversial policy of open referrals to consultants from GPs or negotiating with hospital groups to pick and choose what hospitals they use. Either way, he is neither surprised nor in disagreement.
“If people want total choice out of where they go for services, medical treatment, etc, obviously that comes at a cost. If an insurance provider is able to negotiate that benefit does get passed back to the policy holder.
“So it is a case of, if you want a lower premium, then perhaps you have access to a more limited range of hospitals. The insurance companies are obviously going to go through appropriate due diligence in making sure those providers can provide the right quality of care. It is not in their interests for customers not to have good care either.”
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