Firstly, congratulations on your new appointment and thank you for sitting down to speak with us. May you introduce yourself and background in the international medical insurance market?
My name is Jerome Droesch. I am the CEO of Cigna for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and Board Member of Cigna’s joint venture operations in India and Turkey. I started my career in insurance in 1991 in France, with AXA, at a time when the industry was going through rapid transition around the world. It was exciting to witness the sector’s fast-paced evolution at the time. This dynamism across the various insurance segments, including medical insurance, has been a constant source of motivation for me. Today, I see unlimited opportunities for disruption in medical insurance, and I am glad to be part of this journey with Cigna, which has a 200-year legacy of driving innovation and impact in this space.
You are responsible for building a customer-centric portfolio of offerings in the region in line with Cigna’s core promise to improve the health, well-being and peace of mind of those it serves. How will you do this?
Fortunately, I have access to a well-oiled and capable operations machinery at Cigna, where the priority has always been centered around improving the lives of the people we serve. This essentially means building products and solutions that complement the individual needs of the market. This speaks to our ambition to go deeper, go local and go beyond through network expansion, personalization and innovation.
To this end, we continue to invest in harnessing localized insights that can inform the decisions we make to customize our portfolio. You can already see this difference in the products and solutions we have introduced in the past year within the IPMI segment. Whether it is helping individuals adopt better lifestyle choices or expanding our support, so customers have access to healthcare anytime, anywhere, our focus is on guaranteeing well-being every step of the way.
Over the past year, Cigna has launched its first-ever individual private medical insurance (IPMI) solution for the Middle East region. Can you walk us through the features of this IPMI plan?
Cigna HealthguardSM is a flexible health plan created for individuals and their families living and working in Dubai. This unique offering fills a critical gap in the local health insurance market by meeting the long-term health and well-being needs of a globally mobile population – which was apparent through our research in the region. Our annual Cigna Wellbeing Survey, for example, showed that up to 45 percent of respondents in the UAE pay for their own medical expenses, and that a majority of individuals are concerned about financing their family’s long-term health needs.
In response to this, Cigna HealthguardSM offers a flexible structure and modular approach that allows customers to tailor their plans according to personal needs for their assured long-term well-being. The plan has three tiers - Regional, International and International Plus – which customers can choose from, based on their travel and budget requirements.
Earlier this year, we introduced a refreshed and updated version of this solution for our customers after listening to the feedback that they have shared with us over the last year.
Besides the core offering such as out-patient consultation, inpatient and day-patient hospital treatment, our plans include health screenings, preventative dental treatment, evacuation and repatriation. Customers also have the option to include the Enhanced Healthy Connect Module. This module offers benefits such as 360 health screenings, genetic cancer screening, allergy tests and dietetic consultations
Moreover, our extensive regional and international network as well as its professional network make Cigna HealthguardSM a standout global product for Dubai’s expatriate population. We have an international network comprising over one million relationships, including 96,000 behavioural healthcare professionals and 11,400 facilities and clinics. Cigna also offers 24/7 multilingual customer service that includes prior authorization requests, finding providers and claims enquiries, and ensuring customers have the very best of care available as and when needed.
The Cigna Wellbeing AppTM further enhances our IPMI offering by allowing customers to access tools and resources designed to help with all their wellness needs. These include a biometrics tracking dashboard, an extensive health library containing articles and recipes, general health and targeted health and personality assessments as well as lifestyle coaching across the health spectrum. It also includes a Tele-health feature that allows users to connect with a doctor or specialist via phone or video, from the convenience of their home or office.
How is the IPMI market developing in the 1, Middle East and 2, North Africa, and how will these markets evolve in the next 5 years?
The region’s insurance market is ripe for expansion, with factors such as a rapidly expanding population, growth of the middle and affluent classes, and rise in chronic health conditions contributing to this trend. In the GCC alone, healthcare expenditure is reportedly set to grow to US$104.6 billion in 2022 from an estimated US$76.1 billion in 2017. We are seeing similar growth in markets such as Lebanon, where healthcare spending accounts for over seven percent of the GDP.
Besides the ongoing efforts towards infrastructure development and general well-being awareness in the region, we expect digital innovation to play a vital role in the IPMI sector. Specifically, innovations driven by big data analysis and AI will bring much-needed efficiencies to the sector. We are seeing this change in countries such as the UAE, where the adoption of AI solutions is expected to increase the country’s GDP by $96bn by 2030.
What role do mandatory health insurance schemes play in the adoption of IPMI?
Mandatory health insurance is an important driver in the growth and adoption of IPMI products and services. In markets such as the UAE, where regulations to this effect have been longstanding, the demand for highly personalized care is on the rise. Whereas, in markets such as Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait, where mandatory health insurance policies are still at a nascent stage, there is room for more organic growth. This also comes down to the population mix in these markets. The UAE, with a 90 percent expatriate population offers a different playing field than Oman, for example, where the expat population accounts for just over 40 percent of the total. Yet, Oman’s Health Ministry confirms that only about nine percent of Omanis and 10 percent of expats in the private are currently insured, demonstrating a huge market opportunity waiting to be tapped.
Can you explain what a typical IPMI customer looks like in the 1: Middle East, and 2, North Africa?
The main distinctions in customer profiles are more apparent in markets where we see a higher presence of expatriates. In the UAE, for example, our products cater more to the globally mobile population, including people who are likely to seek health treatments abroad and especially in their home country. In Lebanon, on the other hand, the focus is on localized healthcare. We introduced our global health benefits (GHB) proposition for employers in Lebanon in 2018, which on one hand guarantees access to the one million providers in our network worldwide, but also promises localized sales, underwriting and finance services to clients, as well as offers the insured population access to nuanced customer service and a strong network of 1,600 healthcare providers across the country.
What do IPMI insurers need in 2019?
Insurers today are grappling with elevated levels of wastage, owing to insurance fraud especially within the individual medical insurance segment. This is a common challenge faced by the industry across the world, and one that costs millions on a yearly basis. Digital intervention and AI are increasingly paving the way for a more transparent and less fraudulent insurance ecosystem. However, greater collaboration between the public and private sector will further mitigate the effects of this issue. Knowledge-sharing and a timely exchange of best practices can streamline the sector in a way that was previously not possible. In 2019, we also need to see more provisions in place to build individual insurance offerings around the needs of the customer, whether it means greater security or more convenient access to healthcare.
One of the most widely asked questions at iPMI Magazine is how big is the IPMI market. What do you think?
There is no single number that could effectively gauge the value of the global IPMI market. Fluctuations due to population rise, policy changes and other factors continue to impact IPMI prospects. Various reports value the global IPMI market between $12 billion to $13 billion in 2015-16, expected to grow to over $20 billion by 2019.
Last and not least, if you could live anywhere, on land or at sea, where would it be?
It would be Biarritz in France. I have a beach house there and the city is very lively and famous for surfing.
Related: Cigna Insurance Middle East Names Jerome Droesch New Chief Executive Officer
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