It’s been over a year since the outbreak of the pandemic, and the coronavirus health crisis has made people more aware of their own health. And while international private medical insurance (IPMI) clients can browse through online health insurance comparison sites, there are questions that are better answered by a real human being – or an insurance broker. This feature from International Citizens Insurance will discuss how the role of IPMI brokers has changed and become even more relevant to clients and insurers during the global pandemic.
How the role of the broker has changed
Insurance brokers have always carried an important role in the IPMI industry. They are the crucial connection between the insurance world and clients. They are the human face, the trusted advisor that clients can turn to when the complexity of the insurance policy wording is too perplexing and complicated. Professionally explaining policies to clients not only benefits brokers, but also insurance companies. Educated clients stay with their insurer for years, giving them repetitive business.
The pandemic has accelerated this dynamic even further. Clients have more detailed questions about coverage and benefits. We hear more questions relating to Covid-19 coverage in particular: What exactly is Covid-19 coverage, and what does it mean to policyholders? Clients want to know if this Covid-19 coverage covers illness, hospitalisation, vaccines, testing? Clients seem to be more concerned about their health than just ticking off a box to say they have health insurance coverage. Now they want to understand exactly what they are purchasing, and they want to understand how to use this coverage.
Brokers benefit all
The unique combination of customer service, clear communication, and having in-depth product knowledge, is at the heart of every insurance broker. The ongoing support that clients and insurers receive from brokers can be translated in monetary measures – by reduced fraud and a reduced rate of denied claims.
Insurance brokers often add an additional service level to their clients, which helps with medical claims. Aiding clients to fill in the forms correctly, or even explaining in a calm manner why some claims can’t be paid, creates trust towards the IPMI industry as a whole.
On the other side of the spectrum, medical fraud is costing the insurance industry millions of dollars each year. IPMI brokers can offset these risks by offering analysis of their clients' claims and working closely with insurers to look for patterns that can indicate fraud.
Challenges with selling IPMI during the pandemic
The ongoing support that clients and insurers receive from brokers can be translated in monetary measures – by reduced fraud and reduced rate of denied claims
Beyond normal challenges when selling certain IPMI products, such as complexity of the product, and justification of the higher premiums for an international policy, the pandemic brought a set of its own challenges that brokers now have to solve to make the sale. These are often questions relating to destination and plan portability, as some locations don’t allow citizens from another country to enter because of the pandemic, and high rates of positive cases. At the same time, some countries now mandate specific Covid-19 coverage for anyone trying to get a visa and enter the country, and brokers are expected to know about this and advise clients accordingly.
International Citizens Insurance has also noticed that certain offerings are more popular than others for different customers at this time. For example, we have seen some IPMI clients extending their international health insurance coverage to their family members, who might have been only on a local level before. Clients also ask for telemedicine to be covered in their plans, as the fear of visiting a doctor in a clinic is high. Some clients would also reduce their outpatient coverage to increase hospitalisation and medical evacuation benefits – all in favour of being financially secure in case of a serious illness such as Covid-19.
Some clients would enquire about coverage in their home country – or a country with relatively ‘better’ healthcare than where they are currently residing, as Covid-19 and limited travel opportunities have shifted the focus to getting prime coverage for the main place of residence.
How technology is being integrated in broking operations
There is no doubt that an online comparison section is a must-have on every broker’s site. While these can still be hard to read for clients, it is a starting point and a lead-capturing element onsite that leads to direct communication between the broker and the client. This is where brokers win their clients; by explaining the little-known details about each plan and advising on a personal level.
Marketing, especially when it is search engine optimisation-focused, is at the core of insurance broker companies. Building trust with prospects before connecting with them on a personal level is crucial, and sharing expertise and insights about IPMI products is one way to do it.
Instant, or live, chats are another technology feature widely adopted by brokers. Online chats are less formal in nature and start the direct line of communication with clients almost instantly.
Texting has become very popular as people are busy, and they don’t have time to formulate emails and wait for responses. Brokers and clients can get answers faster, and in turn, find solutions faster via texting. And in the age of WhatsApp, Messenger, Line and other texting apps, convenience and reaching out to clients on their preferred platform is crucial for building rapport and making a good impression.
Clients have more insurance choices
This is where brokers win their clients; by explaining the little-known details about each plan and advising on a personal level
When you work with an international insurance advisor, you have the best possible selection of policies to choose from. Local brokers typically have fewer plans that best fit a smaller group of clients. A global broker typically has a wide range of plans to meet the needs of all nationalities in all countries. You will get the best plan for a client’s specific needs and budget.
Clients will also be provided with a comprehensive global medical plan to cover their medical care. It is okay if an individual’s expat insurance plan comes from one company, but the insurance for their business, their car left in storage, and their camera gear, all come from different sources.
Instead of having one large policy that a client might think is ‘probably’ good enough, they’ll have the exact combination of coverage they need for total confidence. If one company doesn’t offer exactly what they want, they can easily find another one that does. A broker isn’t offended in the least if a client wants to shake things up or reject several ideas. They operate independently of insurance companies, and there’s no pressure for them to sell a particular package, which builds customer confidence.
What’s next for IPMI brokers?
There is no doubt that insurance brokers will remain an important link between the clients and insurers. Medical insurance is such a personal type of purchase, there will always be need for trusted advisors that understand clients' individual needs and concerns. IPMI products are complex, and brokers are, and will remain, the bridge between the client and the insurance world, benefiting both of the sides. ■