Medical services in Scandinavia are among the world’s best. These are reflected in exemplary low death rates for cervical cancer, for instance. And they could even explain how one private medical insurer has developed its reputation for excellence.
Danish insurer International Health Insurance danmark a/s (IHI) is known among UK intermediaries as continental Europe’s most serious rival to the overseas arms of Bupa and PPP healthcare. IHI attributes its growth over 30 years to providing cover similar to the standard Danes expect at home – which means a better range of benefits than UK rivals offer.
Only now is Bupa considering a dip in the waters of chronic conditions cover. Yet IHI has been immersed for years, joined by Cigna and a few minnows of the private medical insurance (PMI) world. Such cover does not come cheap and mainly relates to chronic conditions which developed after the start of the insurance term, the policyholder then receiving benefits indefinitely, as long as premiums are renewed.
However, IHI will also take on people – either individuals or those in groups – with pre-existing conditions such as back trouble. Premiums are, of course, loaded under such circumstances, but the IHI package has other advantages. For example, plans include free cover for children under ten and professional sports are included without penalty. Also, no matter where policyholders live, work or travel, there are no restrictions on choice of hospital or specialist anywhere in the world – although this may have more value for a jet-setting USA-based businessman than an expatriate settled in Spain.
Yet the formula appears to work. Kathrine Stagetorn, the general manager sales and marketing of the Copenhagen-based insurer, says the company’s wide benefit range and reputation for efficiency pushed its premium income last year to £73m. Over the past few years it has clocked up annual growth rates of around 25-30 per cent. Stagetorn says: “From around the start of the 1990s things really took off. It was a combination of two factors – the company was set for growth and the market was set for expansion.
“It takes years to build up a loyal and serious distribution network and you need the demand to maintain it. But, particularly in the last three or four years, we have seen a big growth in the business market.”
The company’s high standing among British intermediaries is typically reflected by comment from specialist intermediary George Connelly of Dorchester-based Healthcare Matters. He says: “IHI gives excellent cover and, with an Isle of Man office, the company must be keen to do business here. But I cannot claim to have done any with it because it is so expensive.”
Jan Lawson, an international PMI specialist at The Private Health Partnership, says: “IHI is excellent. The chronic cover is welcome but it isn’t cheap.”
And Stephen Walker, a specialist intermediary with Brighton-based Medical Insurance Services, says: “It certainly has very good benefits but is quite pricey. It seems to have policyholders spread across a wide range of nationalities. I was recently contacted by a Thai woman with IHI living in France so it really does market policies worldwide.”
IHI recently launched a module-based International Health and Hospital Plan. Module one gives 100 per cent reimbursement of hospital costs and can be taken on its own. And, unusually, by UK insurance company standards, routine childbirth is included.
Module two is out-patient treatments. Reimbursements are capped per consultation, but within reasonable levels, and surgical intervention is 100 per cent covered.
Medicines (module three) are 100 per cent reimbursed. Medical evacuation (module four) is 100 per cent reimbursed and includes provision for an accompanying relative. Routine dental and optical cover (module 5a) is 80 per cent covered and special treatment 50 per cent covered. There’s also a 5b module with better dental cover.
Age bands are wide, with only five bands spanning the cradle to the grave. These are 0-9 (no premium), 10-25, 16-44, 45-59 and 60+. This is at odds with the increasingly age-sensitive approach of insurers such as Bupa.
Add together the cost of the modules, taking the better dental and optical cover, and the premium for a 60-year-old without an excess is £3,340. With the £250 excess, the total drops to £2,823. For the USA at least, these are pretty competitive premiums.