Although the majority of swine flu cases so far have been mild with most people responding positively to antiviral treatment and a few days in bed, many experts are predicting an increase in the number of cases this winter with more hospital admissions for those in high-risk groups, such as people with chronic lung conditions. The return to schools and colleges this month is likely to trigger a further spread of the infection.
There have also been suggestions that an increase in NHS waiting lists due to non-urgent admissions having to be cancelled to cope with swine flu patients will trigger growth in private medical insurance (PMI) sales. While this is speculation, our research shows that people say waiting lists are one of the most important reasons why they take out PMI followed by access to clean hospitals, faster access to specialists and being treated by the same consultant throughout their treatment.
People are, understandably, concerned about swine flu. We have seen a significant increase in the number of calls to our 24-hour nurse Healthline in recent months. The majority of callers have phoned because they had symptoms and were concerned that they may have swine flu or because they knew someone with swine flu and were seeking advice as to what they should do next. Others want to know where to get Tamiflu and whether their PMI covers them.
No doubt intermediaries have also been asked by their customers whether PMI covers swine flu. Those with Bupa health insurance can be reassured that they are covered for inpatient and outpatient treatment of swine flu by a consultant so long as they are referred by their GP.
As a business, we have robust plans in place to ensure that we can continue to operate in the event of an increase in the number of people contracting swine flu. We have introduced more rigorous office cleaning regimes, implemented hygiene measures including provision of alcohol gel for staff for hand-washing, published advice and helplines for staff on what to do if they suspect they have flu and issued specific protocols for managers.
Our team of clinicians and HealthLine nurses will continue to provide up-to- date information and advice to customers and intermediaries as the situation develops on www.bupa.co.uk
DEBBIE KLEINER-GAINES – BEST HEALTH uk LTD
How and when did you start advising on PMI?
I began working with my father Gerald Kleiner but wanted to get some good grounding and experience with an insurer so joined Norwich Union about ten years ago.
Do you advise on individual/corporate – or both?
I started off doing everything but now I have a team with an SME and an individual specialist. We don’t deal with corporates as such and our biggest scheme has less than 100 employees.
What time does your day start – what time does it end?
My day starts at 6.30am and ends at midnight! I dedicate as much time as possible to my family and as such my working day often doesn’t start until 9.30am but I work after the kids have gone to bed to catch up.
Who/what gets you through the day?
My pile of paperwork getting smaller and my inbox reducing in size! I feel that we all work as a great team at Best Health and the laughs we have in between the serious calls really help.
Do you work with introducers and if so, how?
We only work with financial advisers who conduct a full review with their clients with private medical insurance on the check list. They usually email us with their clients’ details and we contact them direct. We always keep our introducers in the loop about their clients’ decisions. And of course we pay on average 25% of our commission to introducers. We are increasingly working with proactive accountants who contact their client base.
What in your view is the key issue in PMI market today?
Right now, the answer is price! Also, I worry that clients are losing faith in insurers. Good old fashioned customer service needs to be a focus for all insurers – some do it better than others.
How much time do you spend seeing clients?
I spend far too much of my time seeing and speaking to clients. It is hard to wean clients off as the business grows but slowly they are accepting that other staff can help them. I am aiming to only spend 20% of my time with clients by the end of 2009 but at the moment it is more like 70%.
Who in the PMI industry do you most admire and why?
My late father, Gerald Kleiner was a real inspiration to me as he was so good at building rapport and trust with clients. He always delivered his promises and was a genuine adviser in the true sense of the word.
How do you relax?
I love Cuban and Brazilian music and play percussion/sing in two bands. My alter ego is backstage at the Jazz stage in Glastonbury drinking the Brazilian cocktail Caipirinha!