Westfield Health has recently released a new product, Hospital Treatment Insurance, aimed at the middle ground between cash plans and PMI. Considering the lengthening of hospital waiting lists, could this be the birth of a third tier to the health insurance market?
Debbie Kleiner-Gaines, Best Health Business
Any product innovation in the private medical insurance (PMI) market is encouraging and some of my clients would welcome the new Westfield plan for certain levels of employee. I would not class this plan as a third tier to the market, but simply a great option that gives clients yet another reason to use an intermediary.
This product would certainly not replace a PMI policy, and where a customer is trying to save money, I would offer this product only if I had already reduced their outpatient or hospital list, taken off ancillary benefits and bartered very hard with PMI insurers.
I can see this plan stimulating a new market, especially for larger companies that would consider including this as part of a flexible benefit scheme. A flat rate regardless of age (£16 per month) is a good price and easier to include in this type of scheme than an age-rated PMI plan. I am used to combining cash plans with PMI policies, but the only issue is that they can be far from seamless.
I like the idea of this being a seamless bolt-on to Westfield’s cash plan offering for customers that cannot afford PMI.
I am not a fan of products that limit choice to certain procedures. It just feels like too much of a lottery. This plan covers only 1,300 surgical and medical procedures, and while one can’t expect miracles for £16 a month, this means that there are potentially thousands more procedures that would not be covered.
Charlie MacEwan, WPA
WPA has offered this kind of hybrid product across the whole market for a number of years. It is not the ‘birth of a third tier’ – it is part of a continued evolution of health insurance and cash plan markets to complement and supplement the ever-changing health environment in the UK.
Today, the NHS and insurers are challenged through ever-rising costs of treatment, coupled with the ageing population. The health insurance market is innovating faster than some might like to suggest as evidenced by new products and concepts from WPA and Westfield.
Understanding what customers want and clarity of purpose are fundamental to what insurers do. Healthcare providers help our customers fund their healthcare. That is why we have Essentials, paying for inpatient elective surgery and NHS Top-Up: great value products that do what they say on the packet.