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Towergate Health & Protection launches open-access GP Hero

Towergate Health & Protection has announced it is launching a new online GP service.

GP Hero enables employees to receive unlimited advice, reassurance and, where appropriate, diagnosis, from a practising doctor remotely from wherever they are in the world. The service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and will be offered by Towergate Health & Protection to SME, corporate PMI and group risk clients who wish to provide employees and their families with fast access to primary care services.

Health and wellbeing behaviours have changed
The pandemic has resulted in long-term changes in health and wellbeing behaviours. There has been a sea-change in attitudes regarding accessing healthcare remotely with many people now actively preferring this option. The launch of GP Hero is in direct response to this requirement. It allows employers to deliver a whole-of-workforce solution and extended online GP access, which traditionally has only been available to those employees insured on private medical insurance (PMI) or group risk insurance policies. 

Brett Hill, Distribution Director at Towergate Health & Protection, explains, “The benefits of fast, convenient online access to a GP have long been recognised, and the pandemic saw the rapid roll out of online GP services to PMI customers in the spring of 2020. However, not all employers can afford to provide every employee with PMI, so we have partnered with HealthHero to deliver an affordable way for SMEs to extend online GP access beyond their insured workforce at a critical time when NHS GP practices across the country will be occupied with the roll out of the UK’s Covid vaccination programme throughout the course of 2021.”

Wider initiative
The launch is part of a wider initiative to facilitate access to remote clinical services for Towergate Health & Protection’s clients.

To improve access to mental health support for SMEs an employee assistance programme (EAP) was launched last summer offering online video counselling services, and as demand for mental health support has surged during the pandemic online counselling sessions now account for over a third of all sessions provided by the service.

The company also launched an agreement with Ascenti in November to provide SMEs with access to Ascenti’s pioneering high quality remote physiotherapy services for their employees, with preferential rates for Towergate Health & Protection’s clients. For employees insured on a cash plan in particular this helps their benefits go further, providing enhanced value for employers and better outcomes for employees. 

Fine details
The GP Hero service is now officially open for enrolment. The minimum group size is just three employees and the service can also be used from overseas. The GP Hero service is provided by HealthHero (formerly Medical Solutions, a provider with a long-standing track record of providing GP telemedicine services to health insurance customers, over more than 20 years). 

Paul Nattrass, Commercial Director at HealthHero, says, “Employees can speak to our 24/7 Customer Services Team or simply book online, choosing between a phone or video appointment and a male or female GP. There is a translation service, covering over 200 languages, for users for whom English may not be their first language. All our GPs are experienced, practising NHS doctors who have exactly the same qualifications and experience as patients’ own GPs. Private prescriptions can be issued for collection from a pharmacy or delivery to any UK address. If symptoms require further investigation or treatment, the GPs can issue an open private referral letter to enable access to continued treatment. We are delighted to be able to give Towergate Health & Protection’s clients the peace of mind that they can consult with a GP and get expert medical support and advice at any time and from anywhere.” 

Brett Hill concludes, “We are really excited by this new service. It means that companies of all sizes will be able to offer online GP access to all employees. This is a highly valuable and valued employee benefit, which will bring tangible positive support in these unprecedented difficult times.”


Announcing The Think Insurtech Marketplace Free Trial

The COVID-19 is still there, the economic situation is uncertain and insurance brokers are in difficulties.

A challenge for intermediaries globally - shifting to a digital platform. Few tools are readily available globally. Going digital has many benefits, it enhances, performance, productivity, profitability, and value of the business. Assists in regulatory compliance, GDPR, IDD and KYC. Enhances the customer journey via real time side by side comparisons of benefits, premiums, currency based on the clients’ individual wants, needs and budget requirements. Both regulations and COVID dramatically impacted and accelerated the need to utilize digital platforms. Simply, there is a need to become digital. The alternative - leaving the market, merging, being acquired or becoming digital.

Insurers and Providers face similar challenges when selling direct. Direct advertising, marketing, staffing, customer service and support traditionally offered by intermediaries is expensive to maintain. Intermediaries are part of the value chain and they must follow compliance otherwise the carrier may be liable. If an intermediary is not compliant it is safer to drop them rather than being exposed to the risk, but this reduces revenue, visibility, and retention of clients; and puts additional strain on internal resources.

The LF Finance group "Think Insurtech" as Software publisher decided to offer its multicurrency SaaS platform (individuals/families & corporate software) free of charge to all brokers worldwide and will increase the integration on new PMI & IPMI plans and new partners with API and digital electronic signature to apply online.

We invite brokers to request free access during this period and insurers to contact us to participate in this marketplace to become a new distribution channel to increase business and performance.

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Think Insurtech Marketplace

Announcement Think Insurtech Marketplace

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iPMI Magazine Speaks With Olivier LE FAOUDER, CEO And Brian S. Piper, Co-Founder - Strategic Business Development, Think Insurtech

In this exclusive interview, iPMI Magazine's CEO, Christopher Knight, speaks with Olivier LE FAOUDER, CEO, and Brian S. Piper, Strategic Business Development at Think Insurtech.

They discuss in detail the brand-new Think Insurtech SaaS platform- digitalization of insurance distribution designed for international and private medical insurers and brokers, and what it means for regulatory and compliance challenges, whilst boosting sales and improving customer engagement.

Olivier is the founder of AOC Insurance Broker tech comparator and advises several key players in this industry. A member of the French Tech and awarded by the Insurtech ecosystem for its SaaS platform and the disruption of the value chain in distribution.

Brian spent the previous 10 years as Head of Global Business Development in expatriate healthcare insurance, personally visiting brokers worldwide.

You are the CEO at Think Insurtech. Can you explain exactly what Think Insurtech provides?

Olivier LE FAOUDER: Think Insurtech is first and foremost a team of insurance and technology enthusiasts with a legal background because, as you know, law and contracts play an increasingly important role in this industry with very strict regulations. We are credible players in this market, nominated this year for the Insurtech of the year in France because we are also intermediaries.

Think Insurtech is a software publisher specialized in PMI & IPMI with a SaaS platform to manage from A to Z the distribution of medical insurance in a global environment. At Think Insurtech, we offer a comprehensive approach and process in working with clients to place both international and domestic healthcare cover including group life and income protection. The process follows the EU’s GDPR and Insurance Distribution Directive (IDD) by collecting data through API, identifying and analysing needs, creating a comparison panel of solutions including a personal recommendation and sending the complete set of policy documentation and application. The SaaS based system improves both performance taking only a few minutes to do a side by side detailed comparison whilst enhancing the client experience by enabling a live real time interactive discussion - evaluating wants, needs and budget requirements and proposing a personal recommendation. The next step that we are working on with some of our insurance/providers partners is to digitize the customer engagement and application form as well as for groups with digital Know Your Customer (KYC) collection.

Why have you created the Think Insurtech Saas platform?

Brian S. Piper: Based on the EU regulations (GDPR & IDD) we understood there would be a disruption in the industry. Brokers, Providers and Insurers had to evolve and become digital to remain compliant. Further, the nature of the insurance brokerage industry is highly fragmented, SaaS tools and digital solutions were not widely available. Only a few old monolithic solutions are available on the market to help brokers. The investment to create such a system requires expertise, enormous costs and is time consuming. SaaS allows a less expensive solution than creating something in-house. It is scalable ranging from small brokerages up to providers and insurers. Unlike many apps and platforms, the system was designed by a broker for internal use, and it has proven effective. It made sense to offer the platform to others under Think Insurtech.

Olivier LE FAOUDER: SaaS platforms are now the priority for insurers according to the latest McKinsey study.1 It is now impossible to manage broker/provider/insurer data flows without Business SaaS and a CRM with APIs. Automation allows you to properly manage regulatory requirements and spend more time on customer experience while greatly increasing productivity and profitability.

For IPMI insurers and brokers, complying with GDPR & IDD is resource-intensive, and the fines can be up to 20 and 40% of annual revenue. Do you think IPMI insurers and brokers understand this fact?

Brian S. Piper: Actually, no. This has been a particular challenge to educate the market and to create awareness of the risks. Often Brokers, Providers and Insurers may assume they are compliant when in fact they are not, particularly with IDD, Anti bribery law, regulator control etc. Apart from penalties, there are disciplinary sanctions up to disbarment and everything depends on the seriousness of the misconduct.

Olivier LE FAOUDER: The FCA Code of Conduct in the UK says this in summary The FCA's penalty-setting regime is based on the following principles:

(1) Disgorgement - a firm or individual should not benefit from any breach;
(2) Discipline - a firm or individual should be penalised for wrongdoing; and
(3) Deterrence - any penalty imposed should deter the firm or individual who committed the breach, and others, from committing further or similar breaches.

What other issues can IPMI insurers and brokers face if they are not compliant with GDPR and IDD?

Brian S. Piper: The risks included being dropped by insurers, being fined by the regulators or both. There is a reputation risk as the fines are published and it’s necessary to inform clients of any breach. Further, if covered by a broker’s liability policy it may lead to a steep increase in premiums or being dropped. Having professional liability insurance is mandatory.

Olivier LE FAOUDER: In this digital world, as in other industries such as retail, we are facing a consolidation that has already begun and many intermediaries will disappear and new ones like Insurtech will replace them.

One of the challenges brokers, providers and insurers face is to move on from non-communicating monolithic platforms (ERP for example) to SaaS Plug & Play and API’s to communicate with insurers, providers and clients. How does Think Insurtech combat this issue?

Olivier LE FAOUDER: Think Insurtech’s platform is completely digital and designed as a SaaS. Core to the system is the CRM provided by Pipedrive, a third party provider. The system is compatible with others SaaS based CRM’s. The system is Plug and Play integrating with a large number of API’s to automate tasks and create a customized environment (for example invoice, generate welcome pack, targeted marketing programs, advanced electronic signature, internal message, business KPI’s in real time, proposal customization, delegate compliance with dedicated API’s etc.). As a tech service provider Think Insurtech offers a 360 degree solution and full digital implementation.

Think Insurtech allows IPMI brokers to compare and contrast healthcare plans side by side, in real time, with a visual of premium, benefits and full documentation including IPID & KYC. What are the real benefits of this process and why does it matter?

Brian S. Piper: Compliance is a big factor as the system by design follows the rules of GDPR and IDD. The only two components the system does not fulfill is the “written recommendation” by the advisor and 15 hours of outside training for employees required by Insurance Directive Distribution (IDD).

Performance is another key advantage from our research individual quotes (plan comparison, organizing plan information, documenting premiums and sending a proposal) can take up to an hour. The time saving is substantial, taking only several minutes to generate a quote - the system is entirely automated. Greater efficiency affords more time with the client, contacting new clients, renewals, studying plans, etc.

Globally, COVID has forced remote interaction with clients. This trend has changed the way business is conducted forcing virtual meetings. Moving forward, it will likely become the norm. A digital platform not only fulfills this function, it enhances the interaction with clients. A representative can change currencies, deductible, review premiums and benefits. This interactive feature, helps to clearly identify the client’s wants, needs, and budget requirements; field questions and recommend a solution. Full transparency enriches the customer experience and trust. Transparency is one of the pillars of the distribution directive with accentuated rights for consumers. It is up to us and the brokers to increase professionalism and eliminate the bad image that insurance “sales” has with the public.

For international private medical insurers, what is the benefit if they deploy the Think Insurtech SaaS platform to their global broker networks?

Olivier LE FAOUDER: I would say that the most important thing is to educate brokers and to ensure that they are aware of the rules and regulations governing the profession. Compliance is very important and nowadays it's very important for insurers, so we work with our INSquary colleagues to make sure that you check all the boxes according to your business. Compliance is expensive for insurers so they select their partners and they want to increase their revenues. Brokers that are not compliant may be dropped - reducing revenue. The relationship between an insurer/provider is a value chain; the impact is both top down and bottom up. Non-compliant brokers can tarnish the image of an insurer or cause direct financial damages. Insurers and providers do not know how to manage all these points at the moment because they are not focused on digitalization. However, when it is finished, and it is already the case for some of them being dropped by insurers.

How will a broker who does not have compliance and communication tools be able to work?

Olivier LE FAOUDER: Insurtechs and providers are today the most agile and have understood the challenges of digitalization, and value chains to create new products, gain performance, customer loyalty etc. At Think Insurtech, we offer white label packages with HIPAA cloud deployments and APIs to increase the value of insurance portfolios. Today with SaaS, a broker can have a much better equipment than a wholesaler or an insurer at a much lower price than outdated ERP solutions. The price is a subscription with deployment and customization or integration costs.

Do you think IPMI broker networks working with insurers are IDD and GDPR compliant?

Brian S. Piper: Generally, no. GDPR was more widely acknowledged and EU brokers to a certain extent have taken measures to be compliant. Ironically, brokers operating outside of the EU may be liable in following the GDPR but they are essentially completely unaware of the inherent risk or simply don’t care; they view the risk as remote. IDD and the actual rules applied are not as widely known although they took effect October 1st, 2018. Surely, the regulators will start enforcing the rules. As soon as some firm gets whacked with a substantial fine, others will take notice.

Core to the Think Insurtech platform is a CRM for operational efficiency – tracking all correspondence, renewals, commissions, KPI's, churn, sales performance and sales forecasts, under 1 roof. How can this boost the business of an IPMI insurer and broker?

Olivier LE FAOUDER: Simply put, it’s not possible to follow GDPR and IDD and other regulations without being digital. Using a web form the CRM is a tool to prove to the regulators how data was collected and permission to use their data. Next, the system tracks the sales process completely providing a dashboard of the brokerage operations and drilling down into the details. The CRM gives a visual overview of the stages of the sales process from lead to won. Each environment depends on the needs of the intermediary and the APIs to be integrated.

Once a broker or insurer has a better understanding of throughput they can focus on areas of improvement or enhancement. As a tool a CRM can be connected to any range of API’s from accounting to marketing automation campaigns, telecom, KPIs Dashboard, etc. providing expanded capabilities to control operations and improve marketing all digitally. Bottom line - digital brokers have a higher valuation than traditional brokers. The question is not if but when brokers move to a digital platform. We have the tools, know-how and experience to assist.

1: The insurance switch: Technology will reshape operations





Bellwood Prestbury Shortlisted In The Best Group International PMI Intermediary Category For 2nd Year Running

A record number of entries were received for this year’s Health Insurance Intermediary Awards with Bellwood Prestbury being nominated in the Best Group International PMI Intermediary category for the second year running.

Andrew Apps, Head of Global Healthcare comments, "Competition this year has been fierce so we are particularly honored to be one of the four intermediaries selected for this important category which reflects the truly global reach of our industry. As our business continues to grow and we move into new and exciting markets, we have never forgotten that our clients always come first.

Our team of specialist iPMI advisers are amongst the most knowledgeable in the business and I am proud of the service and support that we offer our clients, no matter where in the world they may be based."


Chase Templeton Acquires Leeds Advisory Firm

Deal is the third to be completed this calendar year by the acquisition hungry insurance broker, and brings in a further 540 clients and £1.56m of annual premium income, some 60 percent of which comes from the SME segment in which Chase Templeton is now a major player.

Leeds-based Independent Health Insurance Services was founded in 2002 by Wayne Jackson who has decided to pursue other business interests. Commenting on his decision, he said: “When I decided to sell-up, Chase Templeton, being the biggest and most pro-active consolidator in the market, was an obvious and attractive choice. Not only does the company have the funds available to facilitate smooth transactions, but the experience and infrastructure necessary to integrate and take good care of the acquired client base. Having personally spent many years in building the book and the personal relationships that accompanied it, I was keen to see it placed in trustworthy hands.”

The deal is the latest in well over 50 completed since Chase Templeton secured private equity backing from Manchester-based finance house, Palatine Private Equity. It follows Chase Templeton’s purchases of Health Equity Solutions Ltd. and Caledonian Health Solutions last month. Those deals added £2.15m of again predominantly SME generated API.

“Independent Health Insurance Services managed a strong portfolio of SME clients to which we think, by virtue of our size and broad spectrum expertise, can bring added value,” commented Chase Templeton’s mergers and acquisitions director, Jeff Tate. “The book is an excellent fit in terms of our relatively short-term ambition to become market leader in the SME space whilst, the 400 individual clients who are joining us further balance our portfolio.”

Individual private health insurance clients will be served via the company’s Individual Centre of Excellence in Bridgwater, Somerset, with business policies administered through the SME equivalent at Chase Templeton’s headquarters in Darwen, Lancashire. That growth was made possible by a significant expansion of the workforce, which has more than doubled since 2013, with 115 staff now employed in Darwen, Bridgwater, and a recently opened Greater London hub in Bromley, Kent.

Through both acquisitive and organic growth the company now manages over £150m in API.


Punter Southall Health & Protection Launches Expatriate Benefit Solutions

Punter Southall Health & Protection, one of the largest health and protection advisers in the UK, has launched Expatriate Benefit Solutions, a unique service to support employers with expatriate staff.

The new service is especially relevant for employers with small numbers of expatriates looking to expand and diversify their business overseas and is provided in association with Healix International, Morneau Shepell, and Bupa Global.

Commenting on the launch, Teresa Wighton, Head of International Healthcare Consulting, Punter Southall Health & Protection, says: “A successful international assignment needs careful consideration, planning and substantial resources. The average cost of an assignment can be significant and failure can therefore not only be costly, but also result in reputational damage for the company and the loss of valuable employees. Our new service helps reduce these risks and provides employers with the valuable support services that can help employees and their families settle into a new environment.”

The service comprises three inter-related components - pre-assignment screening, a cultural training and expatriate employee assistance programme, and international medical insurance.

Pre-assignment screening is provided by Healix International, using a simple online health questionnaire which is completed for all family members and assessed by a medical team. This is then used to determine if employees or their dependants have any underlying health issues or conditions to enable the right support to be put in place before an assignment starts.

Jon Atkins, Director of Business Development, Healix International, says “Many of the illnesses and health related problems suffered by business travellers and expatriates while overseas are both predictable and preventable. With the experience we have gained through the 12 million medical screenings we carry out each year, we are able to provide a comprehensive and cost effective online solution for assessing the health risks facing employees and their dependants.”

The cultural training and expatriate employee assistance programme is provided by Morneau Shepell and is aimed at helping employees settle into a new work environment and help their families adapt to their new lives. It comprises:

  • A three-hour cultural training programme where employees learn skills and knowledge to live and work effectively within a different culture, and families learn how to communicate around feelings regarding the international assignment.
  • A unique employee assistance programme (EAP) tailored specifically to support the needs and challenges facing expatriates. The service is 24/7 and provides access to 250 expatriate counsellors in over 70 countries, who all have personal expatriate experience.

Richard Albert, Vice President, Global Business Development at Morneau Shepell, says: “We are a leading and experienced expatriate EAP provider that has the unique understanding of the psychosocial impact of international relocation on diagnosis and treatment of problems. This clinical understanding enables us to effectively address expatriate problems and the spill over of these into the workplace. We also take a dual mandate, not only to provide short-term solution-focused counselling support, but also to sustain expatriates while on assignment.”

Bupa Global is providing the international medical insurance for this new service.  Ian Abbott, Head of Intermediary Distribution UK, Bupa Global, says: “Punter Southall Health & Protection partnered with Bupa Global to develop international medical insurance plans that fit the needs of expatriates wherever they are in the world. The products are available exclusively to clients of Punter Southall Health & Protection and are designed to give the ultimate assurance and peace of mind when sending employees and their families overseas. They provide cost effective, benefit rich cover, supported by a range of on-line services and 24/7 helpline advice and support.”



AXA PPP Healthcare Introduces New Cost-Effective Health Cover

AXA PPP healthcare is now offering medium and larger-sized businesses a new approach to securing affordable health cover and support for the whole workforce.

Benefiting employees who are not covered by ‘traditional’ medical insurance, AccessHEALTH focuses on early intervention and support and, in turn, helps employers tackle key health risks to productivity in their business such as musculoskeletal conditions and mental ill health.

Designed for schemes of 100+ employees and available from 01 January 2016, AccessHealth has:

  • NO exclusions for pre-existing medical conditions
  • NO excess to pay
  • NO ‘qualifying period’ to use the benefits.

And it comes with two cover level options, Core and Plus.

Core level includes:

  • Online private GP appointments from AXA PPP healthcare’s Doctor@Hand service, delivered by Doctor Care Anywhere (up to three consultations per membership year)
  • Mental health counselling – telephone support, with five face-to-face counselling sessions where clinically appropriate
  • Musculoskeletal – over-the-phone guidance plus ten physiotherapy, chiropractic or osteopathy sessions (per membership year)
  • 24/7 telephone access to AXA PPP’s dedicated team of nurses, midwives and pharmacists for support with any medical matter or concern
  • Health Gateway – the proactive health portal that provides an intelligent personaised approach to health risk management.

In addition to these features, Plus level covers:

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – 12 sessions upon GP referral (per membership year)
  • Consultations – up to three specialist consultations (per membership year)
  • Diagnostics – full refund for specialist-referred in and day-patient tests, scans and surgery to establish a diagnosis.

Chris Horlick, Distribution Director at AXA PPP healthcare, said, “For organisations who want to safeguard their employees’ health but are unable to provide full medical insurance for the whole workforce, AccessHEALTH provides cost-effective access to expert healthcare without any delays and engages people in their own wellbeing.

“As well as bringing a highly valued benefit to workers who, ordinarily, would not have the benefit of company-paid medical insurance cover, AccessHEALTH will help employers to keep their workforce active and healthy and, if they should become ill or injured, provide early access to investigation and treatment of the two biggest causes of sickness absence – musculoskeletal conditions and psychological issues.” 


Chase Templeton Completes Avanti Healthcare Acquisition

The acquisition brings a further £6.8m of annual premium income (API) and over 1,500 clients to the fast-growing business. Around 60 percent of that income is generated through SME policies, further strengthening Chase Templeton’s position in its core market within the company health insurance sector.

Following a series of acquisitions, including major deals with Atlas Consulting Group and Consilium Employee Benefits, Chase Templeton has now added some £40m API to its books in the last three months and £55m in 2015 as a whole.

Avanti Healthcare was founded in 1996 by chief executive Glen Smith who is exiting the PMI sector in order to concentrate on his Avanti Travel Insurance business. “I and my colleagues have spent nearly 20 years nurturing Avanti Healthcare into a very successful, well-respected and well-known specialist broker. When I decided to focus resource and attention on our growing travel business I sought a buyer who would not only let me realise the value of assets, but inspire confidence that Avanti Healthcare clients would continue to benefit from the best possible advice and service.

“Chase Templeton’s acquisition model is predicated on delivering both those things.”

Jeff Tate, Chase Templeton’s mergers and acquisition director, said the new deal supported one of the company’s key strategic aims. “Avanti brings to us not just a sizeable but a high quality SME client base as indeed did Atlas and Consilium. These and other acquisition, completed and to be concluded, place us firmly on the path towards becoming one of, if not the, key national player in the crucial SME space.” 

He confirmed that Avanti would be Chase Templeton’s last major acquisition this calendar year but added that further significant deals are pipelined for the first quarter of 2016.

Avanti’s SME clients will be serviced via Chase Templeton’s Corporate Centre of Excellence at its headquarters in Darwen, Lancashire. Nearly 1,000 private individual policies will be managed by a specialist team at the Individual Centre of Excellence in Bridgwater, Somerset.



Healix Shortlisted For Best Healthcare Trust Provider Award

For the 6th year running, Healix is a finalist in the prestigious Health Insurance Awards to be held in London on 15th October.  Having won the award for ‘Best Healthcare Trust Provider’ 3 out of 5 times they are hoping to make it a 4th win this year.

Richard Saunders, sales director at Healix Health Services said they were very proud to be recognised by the industry for the high standards Healix set in providing an attractive alternative to traditional Private Medical Insurance schemes.

Saunders explained, “A corporate healthcare trust is a form of self-insurance for group schemes where instead of paying premiums to an insurance company, the money is placed in a trust fund to pay claims.  Many people imagine it to be complicated but it isn’t!  With Healix it is no more difficult than taking out a traditional PMI scheme and ‘stop loss’ insurance means there is no risk. We also handle all the paperwork and administration.

“A Healix healthcare trust is truly bespoke and can accommodate most health and wellbeing benefits, as well as coordinating with providers of other benefits such as Employee Assistance Programmes, Group Income Protection and Health Screening. Healthcare trusts also offer significant tax efficiencies over traditional insurance products as they are not subject to Insurance Premium Tax in the same way, an important consideration with IPT increasing to 9.5% in November.

“Our nurse-led approach to claims management also means that employees enjoy a far superior level of service than normally experienced with traditional schemes using claims administrators.”

The advantages of a Healix Healthcare Trust include:

  • Lower cost to employer
  • Lower P11d rate for employees
  • Superior claims service
  • No ‘Open Referral’ or hospital restrictions
  • Flexibility in scheme design
  • Employer retains funds in low claim years
  • Costs capped in high claim years
  • Other healthcare benefits can be integrated – e.g. Expat iPMI, Cash Plan and Dental 
  • Co-ordination with other benefit provision ensures most effective use of overall health & wellbeing budget.

Private Medical Insurance Numbers Already Down With The Impact Of Tax Rise On The Horizon

Demand for private medical cover moved down in 2014 despite a growing economy with record employment levels. Moreover, according to healthcare intelligence provider future prospects for market growth are also dented with the unwelcome sharp rise in Insurance Premium Tax (IPT) set to knock the sector in November this year.

The latest data published in LaingBuisson’s Health Cover report puts the number of private medical cover policies in the UK (insured and self-insured) at 3.94 million at the start of 2015, down marginally from 3.97 million a year earlier. However, while there has been little change in volumes in the past three years (2012-2014 inclusive), medical cover policy numbers are 9% below a peak of 4.32 million at the start of 2008. Overall penetration of the UK population by private medical cover (people covered) fell to an estimated 10.5% at the start of 2015 compared to 12.3% six years earlier.

Findings confirm there were similar falls of around 14,000 for both company paid policies and individual paid policies during 2014, with falling demand from SME companies (with less than 250 employees) a trend feature in recent years.

There has been a frustrating lack of growth in employer-funded volume demand in the last four years despite reasonable economic growth during this time and 5% growth in full-time employees in the UK to reach record levels. These trends suggest that medical cover penetration has not matched workforce expansion with some large employers, while the cost of private medical cover as a large ticket item may be holding back wider take-up from small and medium sized companies.

LaingBuisson economist Philip Blackburn highlights that long-term growth of corporate medical cover depends on the tangible financial and non-financial pay-offs which private healthcare can deliver to employers as a core part of health and wellbeing spend. Insurers are making progress to quantify these pay-offs, while focus remains on ensuring the costs of medical cover are efficiently and effectively managed for clients. The forthcoming proposed rise in IPT from 6% to 9.5% in November 2015, therefore, delivers a blow for the health cover industry, adding a fixed cost uplift to medical insurance, and potentially further raising the barrier to market growth.

Sadly, the IPT uplift comes after brighter prospects for medical cover growth just a year ago, when claims costs fell sharply by 5% in real terms (taking into account economy inflation (RPI)) in 2013 - the first significant contraction in recent history. Contributing to this fall was effective cost-containment, highlighted by Bupa’s open referral initiative, applied on a large scale since 2012. This sharp drop in claims costs was not repeated in 2014, as medical cover payouts edged down by 0.8% in real terms to be £3.45 billion. While the impact of cost-containment was again evident during the year, there was upward pressure on costs as claims incidence rose across the industry as a whole.

Commenting on the present state of the market, author of the report, Philip Blackburn said, "Private medical cover is currently at a crossroads. A lack of growth in volume demand when the UK economic cycle is at a strong point, suggests there are barriers to a wider market which need to be addressed. While tackling high costs of cover needs to be an ongoing priority for everyone within the private healthcare industry, demonstrating the financial benefit of private healthcare to employers would appear imperative for long-term market prosperity. To this end investment in the value of private healthcare is required from insurers, hospitals and doctors alike. However, while the medical cover market has recently seen some progressive achievements on cost management, a regressive step has now been delivered by the government. Private medical insurance needs a 3.5 percentage point rise in IPT like a hole in the head, and this additional cost is projected to dampen market demand in 2016 and 2017."

But Employers Embrace Low Cost Health Benefits

A different story can be seen from LaingBuisson estimates for health cash plans, which show that employer demand is surging forward, as a low-cost corporate health benefit seems to fit the bill for many companies.

While its penetration remains much lower than private medical cover, the number of employer paid health cash plan contributors increased by 12% in 2014 to reach a high of 833,000 at the start of 2015, following similarly impressive growth a year earlier. The number of company paid cash plan contributors (policies) has more than doubled in the past five years (2010-2014 inclusive), encouraged by an average price which has not increased over the period, and underpinned by a sales drive from intermediaries keen to grow a progressive market. Meanwhile, individual demand for cash plans continued to edge down in 2014, falling by 2.4% to be 1.81 million individual paid contributors at the start of 2015. However, this was the smallest annual fall in seven years, and suggests stable demand from individuals may be approaching.



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