Health insurance off the peg or tailored for you?

What health insurance does your SME need?
What health insurance does your SME need?

You might think that buying health insurance direct from one of the four major providers is bound to be the cheapest option, but could a trimming here with an excess, or the tucking there of some unnecessary cover actually produce worthwhile savings? Should you even consider a mix and match outfit of two or more different policies to achieve what you want? The route to sorting the best option is to use a specialist broker. Here is a quick look at why.

Health insurance is unlike most other insurances in that it offers a vast range of options for SMEs looking to attract, retain or motivate staff and promote a healthy workforce as well as keeping health absenteeism to a minimum. It is very easy to end up with a policy, or even several policies, but still not have the cover you actually want or perhaps be paying for the same cover twice or more. Lets take a few simple examples: you may well feel that the NHS prioritisation system will look after you and your staff really well if you get cancer or some other major problem, and what you really want to cover is the need for something less major but with longer waiting lists, such as a hip or knee replacement. Or, you may want to simply cover the cost of specialist consultations or initial diagnosis with speedy diagnostic tests rather than paying for actual treatment. Or, your big worry could be the classic back ache (an estimated 9,466,000 working days were lost due to work related musculoskeletal disorders last year[1]) and access to specialist therapists. Discounts are available if you, as an individual, participate in healthy activities. You get the idea, lots of things effect the price of health insurance cover.

The thing really is to know what you want to achieve from your health insurance and to do that you need to know what the options are or to know someone who does – a good broker. So will all this expertise cost you more? As it happens, generally speaking no it won't.

Brokers make their money from the insurance providers, and it is based on the brokers making lots of introductions. Why won't they just introduce you to the payer of the largest commission? Because they work to the principal of treating customers fairly and are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority to ensure they do exactly that. It is important that they give advice on choice of policy and provider so that the cover matches the customer’s circumstances. In addition, they want your business to repeat year after year – it costs much more to find new customers than to service existing ones and it is a very competitive market out there, so it’s vital to a broker that they provide the best advice and ongoing customer service.

Each element of an health insurance policy has a price and contributes to the policy cost to you. There are lots of imaginative and negotiable ways of getting the cost down. These range from simple things like introducing or increasing the excess limit – the amount you pay towards the cost of a claim; reducing the level of outpatient treatment or therapies such as physiotherapy, or maybe that you only claim if the wait on the NHS is longer than an agreed number of weeks. You could be happy to limit your choice of hospitals to only local hospitals, or remove cover for the most expensive hospitals in central London. Tweaks can raise or lower the policy price by very considerable margins – like 50 or more per cent of the annual premium. Brett Hill, Managing Director of specialist broker The Health Insurance Group, says “all too often we speak to potential customers who purchased their policy some time ago and haven’t reviewed it for several years, and when we speak to them about what they actually want it to do, we find they are either paying over the top for cover they don’t need, or have gaps in their cover that would otherwise only become apparent when they come to claim.”

It may be that part or all of your requirements could be met with a healthcare cash plan, instead of or alongside a private medical insurance (PMI) policy. Cash plans are great for preventative healthcare as well as actual treatments. Their relevance tends to increase engagement, because staff claim more often for the everyday health items. Cash plans can pay for health screening, such as blood pressure, cholesterol and body mass index (BMI) checks. This preventative approach sets the scene for the value of the cash plan to the staff, and has a direct impact on sickness absence. Claiming is easy, no forms are needed, just a receipt. This encourages use and enables staff to get treatment quickly – rather than be absent waiting for an appointment. No GP referral is required; saving further time to see a specialist. Musculoskeletal (MSK) – back pain - is the highest cause of staff absence and cash plans can provide access to all related therapies including physiotherapists and chiropractors. Another significant cause of time off is visits to the dentist and this too can be covered, usually providing more flexibility of access.

So, you can have health insurance to suit your budget, sir, and deliver the benefits you want for yourself and your staff, even with different levels of cover for different grades and ages of staff. All it takes is a good broker!


[1] Source: Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorder Statistics 2015, Health and Safety Executive