"Brokers and providers alike must do their best to educate consumers about these benefits if we are to improve the perception of PMI."
We spoke to Wayne Carter, Head of Sales and Marketing at National Friendly, about the PMI market and how technology is revolutionising protection policies.
FR: What are the biggest challenges you have seen in the private medical insurance market?
Taking out PMI can be a very personal decision, and for some older people there can be an issue of trust when sharing their personal details or making purchases online. Direct advice from a regulated adviser can be vital in helping to build a connection with clients and to reassure them that they are taking out a policy which fits their individual needs.
For many people face-to-face and telephone advice remains hugely important and therefore it is important for insurers and brokers to offer the right balance. That being said, 42% of Britain’s over-65s made online purchases in 2015, a number that is likely to grow, showing that the internet is still an important channel to reach this market.
Another challenge is that the economy is in a state of uncertainty following the recent election result, which can cause consumers to be more careful when spending. Advisers will be aware of the impact that this could have on their clients, who may be less inclined to sign up to a protection policy and instead save their pennies for a rainy day.
However advisers will also be aware of the rising pressure on public healthcare services as the UK’s population continues to both increase and age, causing longer NHS waiting times. PMI can therefore be more valuable than ever before by providing peace of mind that specialist appointments can be arranged quickly and conveniently, meaning faster diagnostics and treatment.
FR: Do you have any exciting news for 2017?
We’ve just launched Assisted Living Insurance, an innovative new product which aims to help people live independently through older age by providing funding towards care, assisted devices like stair lifts and respite care. We are really excited to be the first to offer an insurance product that could help with current social issues such as the aging population and rising social care costs.
Social care funding can be a lottery for many people. Whilst one local authority might be able to provide support, another might not provide any assistance at all. It’s therefore vital that more of us look to prepare for the costs of social care in later life. We believe Assisted Living Insurance is a truly unique product that has the potential to help many people cover the costs towards later life care.
FR: What steps can both providers and brokers undertake to improve the perception of PMI?
As an industry, we could do more to highlight the positive role these products can play in helping people with their healthcare needs.
PMI can be particularly helpful for specific customer groups such as the self–employed and the older generation. For the self-employed, access to a private doctor can mean quick diagnosis, faster referral and getting back on the road to recovery sooner rather than later. That means less time away from work and potentially less financial pressure.
For older customers, PMI can play an important role not only in helping with serious medical conditions but also with less serious conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome or hip trouble. Whilst these conditions in themselves aren’t critical, without medical attention in the short term they have the potential to become more problematic over time. Again, quick access to a diagnosis and treatment can make a world of difference, potentially avoiding a worsening of their condition and helping them return to health quickly.
Brokers and providers alike must do their best to educate consumers about these benefits if we are to improve the perception of PMI.
FR: How is technology improving the way the PMI industry works and how can brokers utilise this?
Whilst face-to-face or telephone advice remains important, this doesn’t mean brokers and the wider industry should shy away from technology. Online applications and comparison tools have made it easier than ever before for consumers to apply for PMI and for brokers to compare different products with their clients to find the most suitable solution.
Not only do these new systems streamline the application process for protection policies, new intuitive case management tools for brokers have also reduced the administration that comes with each case, helping to free up their time so they can focus on other activities like new business.
FR: If you could see one headline about health insurance in 2017, what would it be?
‘Rising PMI sales relieve pressure on the National Health Service’