In this exclusive iPMI Magazine interview, Christopher Knight, CEO, iPMI Magazine, met with Damian Lenihan, Executive Director, Distribution and Operations, Europe at Aetna International. They discussed in detail the iPMI market during Covid-19, plus recent award wins for Aetna International.
Please introduce yourself and background in the international private medical insurance market:
I’m Damian Lenihan, I head Operations and Distribution for Aetna International in Europe, which I joined in 2015. Prior to Aetna, I spent over 20 years at Bupa where I was, latterly, Sales Director at Bupa Care Homes and a board member for Bupa Care Services. I’ve also volunteered as vice chair of governors at a local school for five years.
Aetna International recently won ‘Best Individual International Healthcare Provider’ at the UK Health & Protection Awards and were also highly commended by the judges for ‘Best Group International Private Medical Insurance Provider’. What does this mean to Aetna International and the iPMI market?
We’re always happy to win prestigious awards because every year throws up unique challenges for us and our industry. This year we were thrilled to collect Best Individual International Healthcare Provider for the first time, especially as this is a segment that we’ve invested in for several years to provide excellent products and services to a growing number of members.
Best Group International PMI Provider is an award we won for eight consecutive years, so we’re pleased to still be highly commended this time around and we’re confident our offering remains strong.
Currently, what percentage of business is group iPMI, and what % of business is individual?
Our business is largely corporate, but we’re also focused on Individual, which we’ve expanded and grown sustainably over the last five years. We are looking to have a balanced business.
What are the advantages of working with an award winning iPMI provider?
There are many advantages of working with a multi-award winning iPMI provider. However, it’s not one award nor a single awards season that makes a difference. At Aetna International we’ve developed our products, our services, our knowledge and expertise and our global medical networks over the past 55 years. We’re always striving to improve in everything we do and we’re constantly looking for better ways to look after our members. We listen to our broker partner, clients and members and focus on making it as easy as possible for our clients to take care of their employees and on empowering our members to look after themselves. We call this a well-care model and our members – whom we treat as individuals – have access to an excellent set of resources, from telemedicine through to tools to support their physical, mental and emotional well-being.
In the past 18 months, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve significantly strengthened our mental health and well-being services and invested in all the tools our members expect and need.
In a nutshell, we're a people business at heart at Aetna International. It’s the passion, energy, creativity and determination of our teams to serve our members as individuals around the clock, every day of the year, that truly sets us apart.
Since COVID-19, how has the international private medical insurance market changed?
In the past 18 months we’ve all seen how mental and emotional health has become much more important for many people around the world. Our research has revealed that employees now have greater expectations than they did pre-pandemic – they want comprehensive mental health and well-being services as standard.
As a result, employers need to carefully choose the best plans for their valued workforce – plans that cover everything from health support, advice and guidance through to telemedicine and digital tools. We understand that employers also need to control their costs and are less likely to switch insurers at the moment. They want to work with a health insurer they know and can deliver the right level of support for their employees.
What are the biggest current risks faced by the international private medical insurance market?
It’s well known that many people avoided seeking health care when they needed it during the height of the pandemic. In some cases, people who actively needed treatment couldn’t access it because hospitals were full dealing with COVID-19 patients. Those with mild symptoms or well-controlled long-term conditions also hesitated to consult with their health care provider. As people avoided or couldn’t access their health care settings, this may result in more disease complications in the future.
Can you walk us through how Aetna International iPMI plans to protect expatriates against COVID-19?
Naturally, we want to help protect all of our members from COVID-19. We offer outpatient tests and diagnostic procedures for communicable diseases when members don’t have signs or symptoms, and they aren’t received in relation to a diagnosed medical condition. The benefit extends to outpatient antibody tests. This is open for anyone who started or renewed our Pioneer 2500-5000+ plans on or after 1 January 2021 and it’s an optional benefit on all our Summit plans.
For new Individual members who join us on a Moratorium or Full Medical Underwriting basis, we provide cover for COVID-19 diagnostic testing, treatment and evacuation, provided they have no pre-existing symptoms or diagnosis of COVID-19.
And, of course, all eligible members have free access to our telemedicine service, vHealth. It’s a really convenient way of talking to a doctor via phone or video link about any aspect of their health or well-being, without the worry of travelling to a medical facility and possibly catching infections.
Due to COVID-19 expats and local workers of global companies and HNW individuals may no longer have the option of flying home or to another country for medical treatment so may have to rely on local healthcare. Is PMI and iPMI merging?
I suspect we’ve seen an increase in individuals and high-net-worth businesses switch from local PMI to IPMI to give them greater flexibility and also gain the additional benefits of coverage for services such as GP visits and maternity care. With IPMI members also have the flexibility to travel to receive their treatment – something that local PMI doesn’t provide.
Many standard medical procedures have been cancelled due to the pandemic. What will the cost of deferred healthcare be?
This is a key question and for the moment it remains to be seen. We certainly feel that with the pandemic people will have delayed or had difficulty seeing a doctor or consultant and therefore we may see people requiring more extensive treatment because conditions might be diagnosed later. However, we can’t yet say how much that might occur. One of the things we implemented for our members was access to a 24-hour video GP service in the hope that people could still get a diagnosis via the service. We saw a substantial uptake of this during Covid.
Last, but not least, if you could live anywhere in the world, on land, or at sea, where would it be?
It’s difficult to say as there is so much of the world I want to see. It would definitely be somewhere warm and at the moment my favourite country is Italy, so perhaps the Amalfi Coast.