Apparently, the public’s perception of private medical insurance (PMI) is changing. As we report in this month’s survey, which starts on page 39, PMI is steadily managing to shake off its upmarket image. This is no doubt due, to a large extent, to the long NHS waiting lists, to which many individuals have fallen victim. Most people cannot afford in terms of time and money, to wait for treatment of a condition that interferes with their employment and lifestyle.
This will be music to the ears of the PMI industry. That said, the perceived change in attitude towards the private health sector has yet to be translated into sales of PMI. Laing & Buisson, the healthcare analysts, tell us with monotonous regularity that the individual PMI market is stagnant.
It seems that despite PMI providers’ attempts to tweak policies to make them more affordable and attractive, the majority of consumers are still shunning individual PMI products and instead dipping into their hard-earned savings to fund treatment on a pay-as-you-go basis. This is fine for those who have one catastrophe but, as we report on page 55 of this issue, those who have two or three are effectively scuppered.
This is where PMI comes into its own and while consumers may be looking more seriously at the product it still doesn’t seem to offer what they need. In order to successfully target these individuals the market should perhaps consider a complete image overhaul, rather than a succession of add-ons and tweaks to the existing product offering.
And what better place to start than with the name. It was suggested to me recently, by John Du’Bois at Axa PPP healthcare, that it would be a good idea to drop the word ‘private’ when used with reference to ‘medical insurance’. He has a good point. Used in this context the word is redundant and – worse – for some potential clients smacks of elitism and/or pretentiousness.
No one calls their motor insurance ‘private motor insurance’.
No one calls their household insurance ‘private household insurance’.
No one calls their life insurance ‘private life insurance’.
So why should medical insurance be any different? Let’s avoid creating unnecessary barriers to consideration by taking the ‘P’ out of PMI.
According to Du’Bois, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) was considering the idea at one stage but it has since dropped off the end of the organisation’s ‘to do’ list. I am keen to get this issue back on the ABI’s agenda and would welcome readers’ thoughts on the matter.
In the meantime, as we hinted last month, we have completely redesigned the look of Health Insurance, giving it a fresh new feel with up-to-date layout. We are constantly reviewing the presentation and content of Health Insurance to try to make it the best possible for our readers. Over the past few months, we have introduced several important extra editorial features such as comparative product surveys, a panel of experts and a readers’ letters page.
I would welcome any comments you may have on the redesign or any other matter.
Suzanne Clarkson – Editor