Healthcare needs more care

As the markets begin to pick up, it seems that only healthcare is still waiting for an injection of vitality.

The general consensus is that it is stagnant and that something needs to give. Its future seems relatively bleak.

Critical illness cover and private medical insurance are both falling victim to their rising cost , which would usually lead to a period of change but, although advisers are considering alternatives, there is little to choose from.

The introduction of revisable premiums had some impact on the critical illness market, but the debate is now in full session about the need for new products and how they should be structured.

The public's perception of the health insurance market does not do much to help matters either. There needs to be a shift from 'health insurance' to 'well-being products'.

However, this is no easy task and would take a strong marketing campaign.

Providers are aware of the issues facing them. The need for modernisation, full online services, and new cost effective products, but no one is willing to take the first step.

Everyone is waiting to learn from the first's mistakes. So who has the courage to take that all important leap of faith into the unknown.

Perhaps the entry of Pruhealth into the market will shake things up a bit and spur the other providers into making a mark.

Pruhealth is taking a consumer-driven approach. It is a refreshing idea: reward your customer for keeping healthy and reduce the premiums. How novel? Simple really - so why has it taken so long for a company to have this brainwave?

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that if people keep themselves healthy it will prove cheaper in the long term.

Treat a patient before they become critical, and get them rehabilitated and back into work, you save paying out on long-term terminal care, income protection pay-outs decrease, as do other insurance pay-outs. The person is also more quickly contributing to the system again.

Whether or not anyone wishes to admit it, the healthcare market is rather incestuous, a microcosm of the insurance industry.

Unless fresh talent is brought into the market, nothing much will change, except from PruHealth taking the lion's share of business.

So it's about time a shake-up took place and people had the guts to look at new ideas and new people, because without it this already stale market will never progress into the 21st century, where it belongs.

Zoe Campbell
Mansion House

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