The relaxed island of Jersey may not seem a typical place to start a revolution for widespread ownership of PMI cover, but BCWA believes it could be a model for future buying patterns in the UK. Not least because it incorporates cover for GP’s fees of up to £200 a year. Philip Fowles, BCWA’s marketing director, believes this has growing relevance for the UK market. “Anyone who has tried to make an appointment to see their doctor will know the pressure they are under. On Jersey, it is standard to pay to see a GP and I believe this will become far more commonplace over here.”
All doctors are private on the Channel Islands, and, while many charge reasonable fees – typically around £25 for a consultation – this can mount up. Some people can have their GP costs subsidised by local authority, the States of Jersey, and this brings the cost down to around £17, but, on an island of full employment, everyone has to pay something.
As a result, Fowles believes private healthcare is very much accepted, with small and large employers keen to provide cover for their workers.
The BCWA product, which is based on its existing comprehensive Preferential policy, offers flexible cover. If there are cost constraints, for example, then full PMI cover could be made available to staff above a certain level, while others would be given cash plan cover only.
Since lauching the scheme, Fowles has been spending much of his time in the Channel Islands and is confident BCWA will become a major player there. Last year the insurer gained its first foothold with the launch of a health plan on the feudal island of Sark. At the start of May it will launch in Guernsey, and it will also be available in Alderney.
All these plans have been set up by the specialist intermediary, Rossboroughs. With much of the success the result of the hard work of the director of its healthcare division, Guy Jones, who has lived on Guernsey for the past few years.
Although originally from the mainland, he has embraced the culture of the Channel Islands, and says he will be sad to leave – which he is scheduled to do in the near future to develop Rossboroughs’s UK business. However, he plans to return regularly, in particular to indulge in his passion for sailing.
Each island has its own character, according to Jones. “Guernsey is very relaxed and more similar to the south west of England, while Jersey has far more hustle and bustle and could be compared to the south east,” he comments.
This understanding of the character of the islands could be what has contributed to Rossboroughs becoming the big name in healthcare in the Channel Islands. But Jones says this brings its own pressures. “It is very much a who knows who market, and means we are under pressure to deliver.”
The firm has a tough reputation among insurers for driving down rates and he makes no apologies for this. Jones says BCWA was selected as a partner as it provided the right product at the right price. “It accepted the challenge and has so far come up with the goods,” he comments. He adds the claims service is good and there are no upper limits to the core medical cover provided.
However, Jones explains other plans launched in Jersey have not always hit the mark. He says some years ago BUPA entered the market, but was offering an international product which was not appropriate. Norwich Union similarly sent out the wrong messages when literature for its Trustcare plan appeared. With no NHS trust hospitals on the islands, this again was unsuitable.
Other aspects of international plans can also cause consternation. Repatriation, for example, is not relevant to Jersey. However, the BCWA plan does allow patients to travel for treatment in the UK. While Jersey has three hospitals, most islanders who are seriously ill or require specialist surgery would be flown to the UK for treatment at a Southampton hospital. The plan includes cover off £100 for flights, and as many trips as needed can be taken until treatment is completed.
Not that BCWA is now complacent. It might be easy to be seduced by the laid-back atmosphere of the island, but BCWA is only too aware that other insurers have sharpened their offers. And, as a result, it is encouraging those insured with other providers to switch by offering a no worse terms deal.