Industry fears withdrawals from system will prevent PMI market innovation
Market confidentiality is stifling innovation in the private medical insurance (PMI) industry, according to a leading provider.
PMI providers have been trying to work with Healthcode, a company owned by insurers, to develop a quotation platform for intermediaries to use. The idea behind it is to help healthcare intermediaries have a single place where they can go to search for a quote instead of hunting through providers' websites.
While six PMI providers were initially on board - apart from Bupa, which was reluctant to be involved at the outset - a few weeks ago a couple of other providers pulled out. "The most damaging of these was Axa which, in the absence of Bupa, was clearly very important," said Alistair Sclare, head of healthcare at Groupama Healthcare.
Sclare said he believed the providers' pulling out was due to "an increased likelihood of the system creating greater speed and ease of transfer of groups to other insurers, so they did not think it in their commerical interest to proceed.' He added other providers pulled out but may return to the table when resourcing was more favourable for them.
John Dubois, spokesperson for Axa, confirmed it had withdrawn from this project for "commercial reasons". However, he disagreed with the industry that the decision would significantly affect innovation in the PMI sector.
Lucy Grubb, spokesperson at Norwich Union Healthcare, said it was unable to support this as the provider is currently focusing on its own resources in a bid to develop its own e-capability.
Also, Fiona Harris, head of personal markets at Bupa, said the provider had its own PMI quotations and renewal system called Intercom. "Our intermediaries want us to expand our existing system to include products beyond PMI so that is our immediate focus," she said, adding this did not preclude other quotation platforms or amalgamations at a later date.
However, Stephen Walker, chief executive of Medical Insurance Services, said he welcomed the development of the platform. "I am always in favour of quote engines. Prognosis, another search engine, works well but with limitations as it has what the owner wants on it. If the industry runs it, I do not think there would be any problems as it would be kept up to date," he said.
Walker said if providers pulled out of talks to organise this, they would be losers in the long term.
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