After a bruising 2012, perhaps the industry needs to be more cordial with one another
It happens every year – you kid yourself that there will be a winding down on the work front towards the end of December. But of course that never happens. The stress of relatives coming to stay and the horror of last minute present shopping pales into insignificance as late December and early January renewals loom.
As a bruising year draws to a close – how was it for you? I think that health insurance in 2012 is perfectly summed up by a favourite corporate client who has just faced a justifiable (from an underwriting point of view) but nonetheless painful hike in premium from an intransigent insurer who were holding all the cards: "Do you get the feeling on healthcare that you’ve just been 'mugged' and they don’t even bother to wear a mask or hoody?"
Yes – it’s tough out there. But toughest for who? Insurers are having a turgid time. More reshuffles than a jittery government and enough changes in tactics to satisfy the most perverse of football coaches. You just break in one account handler as they move to another department. Alas, the Peter Principle continues to apply as managers 'attain their highest level of incompetence'. Harsh, yes, but sadly often true. 'Innovative products' may be the fashionable way forward but so far appear to offer little comfort for clients.
What about brokers? Are they immune from the fear of Armageddon? (According to the Mayan calendar, 21.12.12 marks the end of the world so this discussion could be purely academic and I really should be reaching for the gin). Yes, intermediaries are facing their own particular Doomsday as they compete in a cluttered marketplace, striving to prove their worth to battle-weary and impoverished corporate or individual clients.
Let us spare a thought for the clients. Most insurers and brokers genuinely attempt to give the best service, achievable value, clearest information and most appropriate advice, but a bad risk is a bad risk. Their members contribute to the ticking time bomb so often described in public health. Patients are surviving life-threatening diseases thanks to wonderfully effective but desperately expensive treatment, suffering stress-related illnesses and facing the inevitable side effects of living longer and working harder.
Quite rightly we expect better health but this comes at a price. We are all working under pressure so please think twice before you fire off a curt reply to an unfriendly email or get frustrated as your client, provider or broker doesn’t quite seem to understand your point.
'Tis the season of goodwill so be nice and be grateful. Just think of NHS managers – tasked with saving £20bn in four years. Maybe 2012 didn't seem so bad after all.