person using a laptop
Welcome to IHCIndependent employee benefits consultancy
two people wearing mask touching elbows
Leaders in InsuranceOver 25 Years Experience in the medical insurance market
people have a meeting over zoom
The IHC SolutionGlobal solutions delivered locally

IHC Newsletter, Issue 19, December 2015

Editor’s letter

Welcome to the December issue of IHC Insider.

This has been another busy year for employee benefits. A dynamic market is making for competitive pricing and some extremely interesting value added products. Eldercare services, employee assistance programmes, bereavement counselling and expat benefits can all be found, making it possible for employers to select schemes that really suit the needs of their employees.

There are challenges afoot too, with the chancellor’s decision to increase insurance premium tax (IPT) from 6% to 9.5% putting upward pressure on prices. The industry will be working hard to ensure customers have the most cost effective choices available, looking beyond classic insurance to provide benefits in different ways.

There are other developments in the market, with the medical community moving further towards digital advances. Virtual GP appointments got off to a bumpy start with a disappointing pilot scheme in Jersey, but new start ups are evolving and developing offers so that patients can access advice through apps and online video services.

The landscape will doubtless continue to develop in 2016, and, as we head towards our 25th anniversary in 2017, IHC will be there to help our clients navigate the changes.

We hope you find this newsletter interesting and informative, and, as ever, we would be delighted to receive any feedback from you.

Paul Roberts

Industry news

Group risk insurance keeps adding value

A competitive environment is beneficial for clients, and providers in the group risk space are offering plenty of added value advantages in an attempt to keep their customers loyal.

In August, Unum announced it would be adding access to the Ageing Works service to all group risk policies, for example. Ageing Works is provided by the Positive Ageing Company, and the idea is to help employees cope with problems relating to growing older, both for employees and their family members.

Canada Life Group Insurance has also added a range of new services and products for group risk customers, including bereavement counselling, access to the Best Doctors medical advice and second opinion service and EAP.

Generali also offers an Eldercare Support Service for UK GIP policyholders, which offers all employees, insured or not, access to an occupational therapist is their parent has an unplanned overnight hospital stay (parents must be UK resident) to assess requirements and what the NHS should provide. Generali also has a number of expat services for overseas employees, and, like Canada Life, access to Best Doctors.

It can be hard to navigate the world of group risk, and policies can differ significantly. Do not hesitate to contact your IHC consultant to see which is the best fit for you, from the core services through to the added value extras.

Fit for Work webinar launched

The Fit for Work service has launched a webinar aimed at employers. The webinars aim to educate and promote discussion on how the Fit for Work scheme works, covering a range of subjects affecting employers, their staff and their businesses, as well as clinicians and health workers.

Subjects discussed include staff absence, employer referrals and working with GP practices. They offer step-by-step guides for employers, information for practitioners all in an easy-to-understand, bite-sized format. Click HERE to find out more about the Fit for Work webinars.

Insurance premium tax increase rings in changes

November 1 2015 saw the first increase in insurance premium tax (IPT) since January 2011. George Osborne’s move to raise IPT from 6% to 9.5% was met by criticism across the industry and dismay from consumers.

The increase will affect 3 million private medical insurance (PMI) policies, adding £40 to the average PMI premium.

This is the fourth hike since the tax was first added to premiums in 1994, when it was charged at 2.5%. That rate was increased to 4% in 1997, then to 5% in 1999, rising to 6% in 2010. Today’s rate of 9.5% is, then, a substantial step up in charges.

Critics in the PMI sector have, of course, hit out particularly at the impact on health cover, claiming that increasing the price can only threaten to place greater strain on the public resources by potentially putting people off taking out insurance and turning to the NHS for treatment.

Commenting on the increase, James Dalton, director of insurance policy at the Association of British Insurers (ABI) said: “Millions of people across the country face being hit in the pocket by this rise in IPT. Whether it’s a legal requirement or you want to buy extra cover, insurance is a financial safety net, not a luxury.

“While insurance remains one of the most competitive industries in the UK, its affordability can’t be taken for granted. Further tax increases must be avoided if insurance is to remain accessible for all.”

Meanwhile, Biba CEO, Steve White, said: “The government has been working with the industry to reduce the cost of insurance for consumers – including a summit chaired by the Prime Minister. It therefore seems counterintuitive to be taking measures which will add to the cost – effectively taxing protection.”

The increase in IPT is likely to bring about more interest in the use of Health Trusts. Health Trusts are more like pension schemes than insurance policies. Effectively funds which are managed by trustees on behalf of members, these allow companies to manage healthcare benefits differently, and free from IPT. Health trusts are versatile and can be tailor-made to suit the needs of the company, and can also be used as alternatives to health cash plans.

To find out how you are likely to be affected by the increase in IPT, and to see how to ensure your cover remains affordable, contact your consultant at IHC.

Staying healthy during the winter

It’s that time of year again. The halls are decked with boughs of holly, and the desks are adorned with a box of tissues, a packet of throat sweets and a mug of hot honey and lemon. Winter illnesses are all around. The busses, tubes and trains are full of coughs and sneezes and every meeting is a potential place to meet your next cold.

While we wait for the cure for the common cold to be discovered, here are a few things you can do to keep your workforce as healthy as possible in the winter months.

1. Take it outside
Walking meetings might seem better suited to the summer months, but if the weather is holding up then wrap up warm and get out of the office to discuss projects. The Harvard Business Review (HBR) says that with our sedentary lifestyles, sitting down is the new smoking. HBR claims that walking meetings can bring a host of benefits, from increasing creative thinking to encouraging more productive, honest conversations. HBR offers the following tips for a successful outdoor meeting:

2. Encourage healthy eating

How many members of staff will return to the office after the festive break complaining they have overindulged? Introducing healthy food, such as fresh fruit instead of cakes and sweets, will help people top up their five a day and avoid the temptation to snack on high fat, high sugar foods in the office.

3. Smells like team spirit

Even those who are dedicated to fitness can be put off exercising when the weather turns cold and the nights fall in the middle of the afternoon, but it’s easier to remain motivated when you’re exercising with others. A workplace running club could encourage those who are put off running alone in the winter months to get their trainers back on.

4. Feel ill? Stay home

Whether it’s a cold, flu-like symptoms or a stomach bug, when employees are feeling sick, the best place for them is at home. Presenteeism is not to be encouraged – not only are staff less productive when they are unwell, but, clearly, they run the risk of infecting the rest of the workplace. Encourage staff to stay away from the workplace until they are no longer contagious.

5. Make hygiene a priority

It might sound obvious, but it should still be stressed that hygiene is vital in preventing illnesses from spreading. And it certainly can’t help to remind staff that they should keep clean if they want to stay healthy. Rather grim research from Rentokil, published in February 2015, showed that just 38% of men and 60% of women routinely washed their hands after using the toilet.

Virtual GP services

In the summer of 2015, health secretary Jeremy Hunt commissioned digital pioneer Martha Lane Fox, co-founder of, to develop ideas to improve the use of digital innovation in healthcare. The move made it clear that the focus on how the internet can help healthcare is growing sharper – something that is borne out by a range of online services that have been vying for the attention of connected patients in recent months.

The quest for how to provide the ideal virtual GP service continues, with newcomers to the market attempting to build products and services that will attract patients and make on-screen appointments a real alternative to face-to-face visits.

A new service,, was launched in the summer and provides online GP appointments through smartphones and tablets or computers. The service allows people to book 10-minute appointments online, at a cost of £25 at a time that is convenient. If there is a need for a prescription, a copy can be sent by email or first class post (at an additional cost).

Another service, called Dr Now, has also been set up to allow people to speak to a GP via their screens through online appointments. The service promises to provide prescriptions or medicines on a next-day basis. Dr Now is a multi-platform service that can be accessed via an app.

Virtual GP services are becoming a familiar feature in employee benefits, too. AXA PPP’s Doctor@Hand, delivered by video GP specialists Doctor Care Anywhere, is available to large corporates and is also included in the company’s AccessHEALTH product, set to be launched in January 2016.

The trend is certainly one to watch, although online GP services have certainly had a missed start. A virtual GP service piloted by Babylon in Jersey failed to attract patients and was closed down after six months after only three online appointments were made.

Seemingly unperturbed, Babylon is offering a range of different services through smart devices, including an expansion into the mental health sphere through the Babylon Therapy app. The app allows people to have phone or video counselling when and where it suits them.

It remains to be seen how successful the virtual healthcare space will be, but there appears to be a real commitment to innovative ideas that may help the concept to grow. And as Martha Lane Fox and Tim Kelsey said in an article in the Daily Telegraph published in December 2015: “Digital technology can radically improve care, transform the relationship between clinician and patient, and place power into people’s hands to take more control of their wellbeing.”

Product in focus … AccessHEALTH AXA PPP

In a climate where keeping costs under control is crucial, smart companies are seeking employee benefits that deliver real value at affordable prices. Enter AXA PPP’s new product, AccessHEALTH.

Available to medium and larger businesses, AXA PPP aims to provide affordable health cover catering for whole workforces. The emphasis in on providing benefits to employees who are not covered by standard private medical insurance, and there is a clear focus on early intervention and support.

The major causes of health issues which have an impact on productivity, such as muscular skeletal conditions and mental ill health, are at the heart of AccessHEALTH. The approach is very much about early intervention and support, heading off problems before they become too serious and therefore looking after the wellbeing of employees while protecting productivity.

The scheme comes with no exclusions for pre-existing medical conditions, not excess and no ‘qualifying period’ in which to use benefits.

There are two levels of cover, Core and Plus. Both offer access on an online portal, online GP appointments through the AXA PPP’s Doctor@Hand service, mental health counselling including telephone support and a limited number of face-to-face sessions, telephone guidance for musculoskeletal problems and osteopath, physiotherapist or chiropractor treatment where necessary and 24 hour access to medical practitioners over the phone.
Plus has the additional benefits of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) through GP referral, up to three specialist consultations a year and full reimbursements for scans and tests for diagnosis.

The product is aimed at schemes with 100 or more employees and will be available from January 1 2016.

Chris Horlick, Distribution Director at AXA PPP healthcare, said: “We know from feedback from the market that there’s a genuine need for affordable health and wellbeing cover for the whole workforce. AccessHEALTH provides easy, direct access to expert healthcare without any delays and engages people in their own wellbeing – addressing a significant protection opportunity for intermediaries when it comes to advising clients who want to safeguard employee health.

“As well as bringing a highly valued benefit to workers who, ordinarily, would not have the benefit of company-paid medical insurance cover, AccessHEALTH will help employers to keep their workforce active and healthy and, if they should become ill or injured, provide early access to investigation and treatment of the two biggest causes of sickness absence – musculoskeletal conditions and psychological issues.”

London hospital market faces shake up

HCA, one of the largest healthcare providers in the UK, may be forced to sell one of its hospitals following a Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigation. The CMA has announced provisional findings that lack of price competition is harming customers, after re-examining private healthcare in central London.

The announcement follows an investigation which began in 2012 by the Competition Commission, the predecessor of the CMA, into private healthcare. The CMA, as it had now become, said that “certain features of the markets for privately-funded healthcare services were leading to an adverse effect on competition (AEC)”.

The CMA said that the largest private hospital operator in central London, HCA International Limited, must sell one or two of its hospitals.

Roger Witcomb, Chairman of the Private Healthcare Market Remittal Group, said: “Following a long and thorough re-examination of the issues remitted back to us by the Competition Appeal Tribunal we have provisionally concluded that there is still a competition problem that needs addressing.

“We will now consult widely and listen carefully to all responses to our provisional findings and potential remedies before we publish our final report.”
A spokesperson for HCA said: “We note the new and alternative remedies in the CMA’s provisional findings. Since this process began, over three years ago, London’s private healthcare market has continued to grow and diversify.

“Recent investments by the Cleveland Clinic and VPS in large new facilities, and Spire’s plans for a new central London hospital by 2018, are yet further signs that London offers an open, accessible and competitive market”.

The CMA’s final report is due in March 2016.

A review of the past six months

In this section, we take a look at some of the stories we at IHC have covered over the past six months. It has been a busy time for the industry, with plenty to discuss, and here we round-up articles on some of the key issues affecting our industry.

Generali eldercare services
Designed to address the needs of the Sandwich Generation – a growing number of people caught between caring for small children and looking after ageing parents – Generali has launched a new Eldercare service with EAP provider Optum.

International health cover
A global market appears to be increasingly focussed on smaller targets, as providers of international healthcare concentrate on winning customers in local markets.

Mergers and acquisitions in the healthcare world
The already powerful Anthem gains in strength with the acquisition of Cigna.

Where next for health cash plans
Health cash plans can offer core products and services at lower prices. We find out what’s on offer, and what changing.

Cigna’s Detox at Home
A new service from Cigna allows people with serious alcohol and substance dependency to detox under nurse-led care within the comforting environment of their own homes.

IHC launches in-house wellbeing campaign in conjunction with Bupa Boost

We are keen advocators of health and wellbeing in the workplace at IHC, and to prove we practice what we preach we will be launching our own in house challenge in January. The IHC team is taking part in a group challenge to see who can walk the distance between our Callington, Cornwall office, past the Weston and Billericay offices and on to the Fleet Street office first.

The challenge is of course virtual – our staff are too busy to be out marching along the route between these destinations – but they will be using the Bupa Boost app and their fitbits to monitor the number of steps they take. The full distance is 333 miles and we estimate that to be around 700,000 steps. There will also be shorter challenges to see who can cover the greatest distance each month.

The first person to cover the whole 333 miles will win a two-night break for two people at a Champneys spa. And let’s face it, they will need it by then.

IHC profile – Nicola Clough

Nicola Clough joined IHC as an administration assistant in our Callington office in August this year, having moved to Cornwall from Manchester in June.

She has built up a number of years experience in the insurance industry, having worked in Manchester as a tele-interviewer for Bupa before the part of the business she worked in was taken over by Friends Life. She then successfully applied for a new position within Friends Life as a scheme administrator, a job she did for around four years before heading to the south west and joining the IHC team.

Her job in the Callington office involves checking accounts and policy documents, answering calls from clients and insurers and dealing with the correspondence that comes in daily, as well as sending out quote requests and working on market reviews and renewals.

“I work closely with Claire Lapthorne and Louise Mitch in the Callington office,” says Nicola. “They have been really welcoming and helpful to me since I joined the company.” When she is not at work, Nicola is a keen baker and loves trying out new recipes, shopping, going to the cinema and visiting new places.

We are also looking forward to welcoming Simon Porter who will be joining IHC in early 2016.

    Request more information

    Contact details

    +44 (0) 207 353 4099

    IHC Ltd, 1-2 Bolt Court, London, EC4A 3DQ.

    © IHC Ltd. IHC Ltd is Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority

    Designed and managed by Dental Design

    Privacy Notice

    Please click here to reset your cookie preference.