Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Personal medical insurance

Some weeks ago I put together and posted a blog post here about corporate wellness, positing the question as to whether companies really need to bother about the health of employees in terms of putting in place medical insurance and other health related schemes.

This has been the most popular post I've ever put up at this blog and I have picked up several corporate enquiries on the back of it.

This has gotten me wondering if the same issues hold true in the personal market. Pondering this I think a different approach intellectual approach is required. In essence these products when bought for an individual  or family are not really a financial purchase (except insofar as they cost money to buy) but rather a purchase born out of sometimes quite selfish personal needs.  The exact reason will vary from person to person - perhaps a bad experience with the NHS or a relative who needed care and didn't receive it. A worry about hospital acquired infections. Any number of factors can come into play.

So imagine one is considering buying a new private medical insurance plan. What does one get ? Well instant access to (depending on the cover purchased and underwriting) pretty much any medical treatment or procedure that you might need with the doctor and private hospital of your choice. This access can have a large impact on how one sources medical treatment and the knock on effect that being ill has for you and your family.

So for private treatment generally there is no NHS waiting list, nor long waits in an out-patient clinic waiting room rather instant access to the top doctor when you need it in nice surroundings.

For personal purchasers of medical insurance this type of plan then is a personal choice that can have enormous positive impact on the ability to plan necessary treatment around your work and family life and know that the best treatment is there as and when you need it - so all in all a different scenario to a corporate sale.

The other thing to bear in mind with regards to personal PMI is the cost - often it costs a lot less than people imagine. I've just done a report for a client today aged 27 and for him, prices (for a mid-range plan) vary from £ 30 to 45 per month - most people over-estimate the costs of medical insurance and it can be a lot less than you imagine especially if we look at decent cover but with a higher excess.

For more information contact : Phil Knight, Independent Healthcare Consultant - 07792 075748 or philknight@pch.uk.com

Monday, 19 September 2016

PMI for a new company

Ok, so you're running a small business for the first time.

The office lease is signed off, two or three key staff in place and you have that idea burning a hole in your brain.

What do you need next. Well certainly not buy company private medical insurance (PMI). Well not yet anyway.

But you will at some point in the future and here's why ...

At some time though in the next 18 months you're likely to have a health issue for yourself or one of those key people you need to make that business idea real. Hopefully it won't be too serious, perhaps someone won't be able to get to work because they're ill or waiting for a minor procedure. It might not be business critical and cost you money or clients, this time. Maybe next time though it could be.

Put simply you simply can't have vital team members sitting on NHS waiting lists only able to work part time or at less than maximum capability and that's when you might call someone like me to talk about medical insurance.

If you were to call me we would talk products and numbers, prices and excesses.  In reality medical insurance isn't really facts and figures and technical specifications. It's about the health of your business and it's human capitol.


Friday, 16 September 2016

New podcast widget on my blog - listen to PMICast from the comfort of your desktop

Over the years I have played around with my two podcasts : PMICast, a business podcast focusing on private medical insurance , primarily for my introducer clients and 'Where's Wilson' my occasional SF and Fantasy 'cast.

Of the two PMICast has been the most productive with 67 episodes available for download. Time and expansion of the business haven't really allowed much time for this kind of fairly labour intensive social media work but I do think that it is time I stepped back up and began thinking about getting PMICast up and running again. With that in mind I have just put a widget back on the blog that links to my pod bean website and from the widget your can play any of my podcasts straight from the desktop so please have a play around and listen to a couple.

In addition I am planning to revamp the podcast, making it a little shorter, (hopefully) getting a little more regular - probably every two weeks and looking to make the content more consumer focused rather than all about the IFA and introducer side of things. so watch out for that coming to a pod catcher near you.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Do you have personal medical insurance ? Or PMI tricks of the trade

If you're insured via a company scheme you still need to keep reading this post - you never know when you might leave, get made redundant, stop being eligible, set up your own business and you might need the cover I'm about to talk about too !

So do you have PMI - 'Private Medical Insurance - in place ?

If you're not in a medical insurance scheme through work you really need to think about whether you need this kind of cover. Broadly medical insurance pays for all eligible secondary care - so usually no GP related services but (depending on the plan benefits you have) all secondary care that is required afterwards - seeing a consultant, having diagnostic tests, any in-patient and day case treatment you might need and then follow ups and therapy afterwards.

Does that sound like something you might be interested in ? If so here are some additional factors or 'tricks of the trade' (from a 22 year veteran of the medical insurance industry) for you to consider :

Waiting lists - for people who need treatment in hospital waiting on an NHS waiting list can be both inconvenient and painful and with PMI there are no waits, you just book your consultation and treatment (once the insurer authorises it) with the consultant. Some insurers ask you to visit a particular doctor but many allow the choice of any consultant which means you and your GP find you the right clinician for your exact health requirements.

Specialist attention - within the private healthcare system you will never see a junior doctor. You will always receive the best attention of the senior doctor. This specialist attention is a vital point and many nurses and support staff in private hospitals enjoy the reassurance of knowing that their doctor colleagues are experienced and at the very top of their game as obviously do the patients.  The ratio of nurses to their patients in private clinics is also high so this doesn't hurt either !

Cleanliness - private hospitals have a deserved reputation for excellent cleanliness. In particular infection rates for hospital acquired infections (which all treatment providers are required to report) are considerably lower in the private sector. The insurer : BUPA reported recently that over 65% of people note hospital clean-ness as a factor when purchasing the cover. In short private hospitals can afford a much more intensive and effective infection surveillance program

Ease of access and worklife balance - the above factors mean that for certain people not having private medical isn't isn't an option. If you need to juggle a busy work and home life one simply cannot afford to be unable to access medical treatment quickly and conveniently.

If your job has any kind of level of responsibility then most couldn't simply wait on an NHS list to see a consultant and not be able to work. More so, taking off time during work for many at all career levels is difficult - with PMI you plan which doctor you see and when.

Flexibility and affordability of cover - modern medical insurance plans offer an enormous range of plan options and I can almost always find some cover for people that ticks most of the boxes we've discussed above. PMI is actually an awful lot more affordable than most people think, especially given the actual costs of private treatment when you look into it.

So there lots of things to think about and I'm passionate about this, the number of clients who come up to me after getting sick and wanting the cover but of course by that stage the conditions they need to be covered for will possibly be excluded by underwriting - NOW is the time to act and not after you have a live medical problem.

Generally, however old you are the cover is probably going to be less than you might think for a plan that is at least halfway decent and it is vital that you speak to an independent broker like myself to find out which cover and which insurer might suit you.

Over the last six years of running my own private medical insurance advisory practice I have advised hundreds of personal clients including many high net worth individuals but I recognise that regardless of income or age everybody needs to take control of their health and finances and my role is to facilitate that for you.

For more information contact :

Phil Knight
Independent Healthcare Consultant
Part of Premier Choice Group
T. 07792 075748
E. philknight@pch.uk.com
@localventure2 on Twitter Or

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Do you need a corporate wellness strategy

In my recent blog post on the subject (http://localventure.blogspot.co.uk/2016/07/corporate-wellness-strategy-do-you-need.html) I talked about the different types of insurance products and support services that can assist your company with keeping staff happy, well and productive.

It's amazing how many clients I speak to who really do not have a wellness strategy at all for their staff, who in fact do not really give it any thought at all. Is this approach short sighted ?

It is not my role to bully or cajole clients into understanding that they do need a strategy around their human capital but to me it simply stands to reason - if you don't invest in your staff's workplace, mental and physical well-being then they will not be contented or motivated to work to their full capacity and inevitably they will take more and more time off work - it may be easier for some to think of this as a purely financial transaction, a little money spent in advance of the problem prevents future breakdown.

A little bit like spending money on maintaining a car to prevent it breaking down at a later date with a more catastrophic and expensive fault later on.

Although not directly analogous/applicable to this situation a friend of mine came out with an expression recently that although I had not heard or used before made me wish it was mine :

"Buy cheap, Be prepared to Buy twice"

Seems reasonably relevant and more or less covers my point above I think.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Everyday Carry

Whilst I was on holiday I was introduced to the 'Leatherman' series of multi-tools. Had never really heard of them before (see below, always been a Swiss Army kind of person).

As a lapsed pen knife fan (always wanted one as a kid but was never allowed and it drove me mad) I ended up ordering this amazing new (to me) multi-tool for use around the house, for DIY when out walking and so forth.

During my research (yes I really am that nerdy) into which model to invest in I watched a lot of YouTube reviews and as a consequence came across this an American phenomenon which has made it's way over here called 'Everyday Carry' - google it and you will, like I did discover a world of oddly OCD people who obsess over pocket bulge, the weight of titanium and the benefits of pocket note books versus smart phones.

Now do not misunderstand me, it may be a bit of an odd, even a fairly obvious, if slightly sub-conscious thing (who doesn't think every now and then about what they carry around with them on a daily basis) but I am finding it alluring. It turns out that EDC (as we proponents call it) is not just OCD by any other name but rather a lifestyle choice and it really does make you think about focusing on task and ensuring you have the right tool at hand at all times. Good idea for business and entrepreneurs me thinks too !

So on the surface it is a bit odd, however isn't it sensible to carry the stuff around with you that you need and ditch all the other rubbish that ends up in your pockets or coat or bag for no reason. I'm finding that as I read more it's about slimming down some items (wallets for example) but adding other items to your personal kit. I never dreamed of carrying a torch but my new mini flashlight is so much more powerful than the one on my phone, more accessible and a lot less power intensive.

One of the things you'll see on EDC websites is a photo of a persons kit along with a brief description. I'm a fairly new and to be honest slightly bewildered/half hearted EDC'er at the moment but here's my starting out kit as of today :

My EDC
Nappy/Poo Bags - we have a 14 week old puppy - do the math !
Iphone 6 Plus - trusty work horse smart phone
Sennheiser ear phones in pouch
Cash for parking/coffee (maybe even a muffin ?)
Leatherman Wave - just to stress, this is not legal to carry without a good reason in the UK due to having locked blades - I only use it at home or when out walking in the wilds.
LED Lanser PSE mini flashlight
House and car key
Animal Wallet (due to be slimmed down !!!)
13 inch MacBook Pro 2014
Apple Watch
Fitbit Charge

Seems like a lot to me so I am planning to slim down a little although to be fair the MacBook only goes out with me on work appointments otherwise it lives in my office along with the Leatherman that sits on my desk and the flashlight which comes out for nighttime dog walks etc.

I'm looking for a slimline swiss army knife to add to my keys and be a fallback for the Leatherman for everyday use (have a Victorinox Huntmans for my bag on order along with a Spartan for my key chain).

Will update if this EDC thing proceeds - am finding it a little all consuming at the moment but if nothing else it encourages me to be prepared and walk more with the dogs to justify carrying proper outdoorsman type kit.

Nerdy, ODC, - you bet but great fun !

Monday, 8 August 2016

Welcome back from holiday

First day back in the office following just over two weeks away (Bristol and South Devon). Over the break have done a fair amount of client work so nothing too desperate sitting in my in-box.

Just had a call from Talk Talk (?), my fibre broad band and home phone line provider. They tell me that in the last two weeks there has been an enormous amount of data being used by my broad band account - an odd statement since I have unlimited data on my home account.

So I mentioned that wasn't possible as no one had been in the house for nearly three weeks. Ah ha they said. Someone can 'hack in' with a 'worm' even if you have a password and use your data.

So he then asked me what business I used my broad band for - I replied that was confidential, "fine" says he. Then he asks me if my brand band line was in use at the moment, puzzled I asked "if you're really Talk Talk should't you be able to tell me that ?" This was apparently one sarcastic question too many as the once seemingly professional caller told me to "expletive off" and hung up on me.

The lesson, never give out any information at all during in-coming calls without checking the source  and have some fun with them if you possible can. When anyone who provides me a service contacts me, particularly by phone but also by e-mail if the old spider sense starts tingling always contact them yourselves to check especially with people who should have access to phone numbers, technical info, bank details etc - there's no reason for them to contact you unless there is an issue and calling them yourself proves you are speaking to the company for real and not some scammer in a call centre in Moscow.
Henry the Cocker-Poo

Friday, 1 July 2016

Corporate Wellness Strategy - do you need one ?

If you are running a business you do not need me to tell you that your work force, the 'human capital' within your business, is of vital importance.

Many companies will have the odd product to help staff health and well-being : medical insurance or income protection, perhaps a cash plan. In most cases very few businesses, certainly very few smaller businesses will have an over-riding strategy to keep staff health, happy and motivated. What follows below are some basic areas of insurance and health products that can assist with this vital area of employee support.

Private Medical Insurance - one of the cornerstones of health protection for a business. Immediate access to private treatment for all employees when needed. The advantages for the staff are fairly self evident and tie in to the main advantages for the company. Access to healthcare with no waiting lists and timed at the most convenient point for the business. Faster access, better treatment (usually) and quicker recuperation times mean staff are healthier, happier and when treatment is needed everything happens faster meaning less time off work sick at it's most basic.

Many insurers will also offer additional added value benefits, usually aimed at providing health related benefits or discounts. These and the core benefits of medical insurance usually mean that staff value PMI benefits over other employee benefit products. This means that as well as a 'health benefit' PMI is also key when recruiting and attempting to retain staff. In other words, words once staff have had this benefit and derived value they will usually be loath to lose it.

It's also worth noting that (as you might imagine) medical insurance is a key benefit that staff will regularly use so often obtaining immediate value from.

Income Protection - I would suggest that income protection is another health cornerstone for employees. Basically a product that pays an income - as the name suggests - when a member is unable to work through sickness. There are usually limits on cover (taking into account statutory disability type payments for example) and often a waiting or qualifying period before the payment kicks in.

In some ways I would view PMI and Income Protection as two sides of the same coin. Medical insurance pays immediately for private treatment then IP kicks in several weeks later (following the qualifying period) usually when the company sick pay ends.

Cash Plans - a product which offers discrete, usually fairly low value, cash benefit across a variety of types of health treatment. Often an adjunct to a PMI scheme or put in place as a low value alternative to full medical insurance. The key benefits of this type of cover tend to be for routine dental treatment and optical cover. As neither of these is typically available within a core medical insurance product there is some value to be found here even if some of the benefits are quite low value.

There is a trend at the moment for cash plan providers to offer a benefit that pays a PMI excess. this can often be a good tactic for companies to reduce overall PMI plan costs whilst adding in additional value for staff. There is some controversy within the market though as to how sustainable this sales tactics, driven by providers, actually is.

Dental Insurance - given the relatively low cash value levels of cash plans full dental insurance can be a useful way of adding in full dental benefits for staff and like PMI employees really value this cover and regularly will use it. Dental is often found in progressive businesses and those whose culture might demand this kind of cover e.g. American owned companies.

It's also worth considering that dental work, whilst not life threatening does often have time off work implications and a properly set up and managed dental scheme, like PMI can seriously cut down time off work for a business.

Health Screening - as part of a drive to create health prevention is is now fairly standard to offer varied health checks (well-person, executive check ups and the like) for senior employees to promote a healthy lifestyle but also ensure key employees are able to work at peak efficiency.

Sickness Absence Management - run and monitored by HR in many cases a full SAM capability handles the notification of illness by staff to the business, reports MI around this to the business and typically handles return to work scenarios and will often liaise with PMI and IP providers to offer initial triage and treatment options. For larger business this program in tandem with other product areas can be useful in understanding their staff absence profile and enable pro-active measures to be undertaken.

Employee Assistance Programs - at their most basic an EAP is simply a helpline aiming to provide staff support around stress and other lifestyle type problems. As currently constituted a modern EAP would typically offer a telephone helpline staffed by counsellors, the possibility of face to face counselling (usually 6 or 8 sessions per annum) and often a legal helpline as well. The advantage for the business is covering off some of their duty of care responsibilities to staff and gaining MI that give insight into staff health and morale. I would point out though that all management information from an EAP would be anonymised. Again an EAP tends to be (although not exclusively) for larger businesses. There can be value though for groups of 45 or 50 staff upwards.

Occupational Health - onsite support usually provided by clinicians (doctors and specialist nurses). This is one of the older forms of health cover for business and despite the increased 'health and safety' culture in which we exist is really a dying art. At one time most factories had a full time Occy. Health capability but more recently most OH is supplied by larger specialist businesses who offer visits from clinicians or helpline support in this area. Increasingly the workplace H & S support is provided by the companies HR function with the NHS or private PMI providers left to catch the fall-out.

There are a number of additional areas of employee benefits - shopping discounts schemes, legal advice, cycling schemes and so on but I have endeavoured to highlight the main 'health' related areas.

Obviously no company (unless they are ridiculously cash rich) would ever provide all of these benefits but proper advice on the companies requirement from a specialist adviser like myself can be valuable. Research has shown (please don't ask me to quote it as I'm struggling to pin down the publication but it was paid for by AXA PPP when they launched a new healthcare plan in the late 1990's) that once a PMI scheme reaches a certain size - around 2,000 lives as I recall - it will literally pay for itself every year in terms of the salary costs it will save by reduction of sickness absence. Given that most companies won't have 2,000 employees we simply need to look at the various products and options out there and consider what the companies problem/historic approach to absence has been and use the above tools in an integrated way to provide solutions.

This is the kind of work I am undertaking with my clients every day of the week and they range in size from 2 man small companies up to corporates with hundreds of employees on cover - each client needs a bespoke approach and an honest appraisal of how to meet their wellness strategy and of course in some cases my assistance to actually design one in the first place !

If you are interested in have an initial discussion and for more information and a free review of your companies health call : 07792 075748 or e-mail : philknight@pch.uk.com

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Brexit

So we are going to blow the explosive bolts along the South Coast, East Anglia and Channel Tunnel and float off into the North Atlantic.

After one of the most bad blooded and frankly incomprehensible political fights we have allowed the lowest common denominator in British society (those who incidentally won't be paying tax anyway - pensioners and layabouts, the true little Englanders) to out vote the ones who took the time to look over the political and economic implications and decided that the status quo was slightly better than another 8 to 10 years of financial turmoil.

Good news is though that there are about to be a lot more jobs picking fruit, serving in pizza shops and the sex trade. Glad I had some positive information to pass out to my ten and sixteen year old son and daughter.

This vote is totally unbelievable and in effect nearly half of the population have been disenfranchised (after all we can't ever vote to go back in now) and it is our kids generation that will suffer not us.

The implications are completely unknown but it is very likely that we will have at least a year of tumbling financial markets which loath uncertainty.


Wednesday, 22 June 2016

The saga of my kitchen never ends and the perils of eBay

It seems as if the saga that is my kitchen renovation will never end. As it stands a part of the kitchen 'fell off' (literally) a couple of weeks ago and the fitter still hasn't returned to fix it. In addition the electrical work is not finished insofar as we still need a safety certificate following the installation of a new circuit box but the gentleman was due to arrive on Saturday last week and didn't turn up so we're basically waiting for the final couple of things to be finished. Frustrating but not too much of an issue - still haven't paid the fitter 50% of his fee so the ball is in his court.

The story doesn't finish there though. At the end of May I finally sold my 2 year old Samsung Fridge Freezer on eBay - it took five or six auctions before it finally went and it was collected two days after the buyer won the auction.

This buyer had been a bit of a presence around all of the previous auctions. He'd never actually bid until the final auction and each time it failed to sell he contacted me via eBay messaging with questions about the item and offers below the starting price. On each of three occasions I told him that he should bid if he wanted the item. Eventually he did, reluctantly though I suspect.

On the day of collection (28/5/16) the buyer turned up unannounced at my home (he had arranged for a removals company to pick it up in the evening) in the afternoon. Fortunately I was in and as luck would have it in the garage emptying my own items from the fridge - I'd had cheese, milk, sauces etc in the thing as it had functioned as my main fridge in the garage all through the kitchen refit and that weekend (this was a Saturday) the fitters were in again doing some work so I couldn't get into the kitchen and I'd been in and out to the fridge all day including emptying the ice maker which I'd turned on accidentally dusting it the day before for the collection.

He insisted on inspecting the fridge and was quite surly but I didn't object - he'd already paid the fee on Paypal so I just wanted the thing away. He went off and later the removal company turned up and took the fridge freezer.

Fast forward to last Friday the 17th of June (21 days later) I receive a message from eBay telling me that the buyer is demanding to return the item as it was 'not as described'.

Basically he's saying that immediately on plugging it in it blew his circuit breaker every hour or two and that having spent over £ 240 putting in a separate circuit onto his board it still doesn't work.

My problem is this. I know the thing was working and had worked unbroken until the moment I unplugged it at my house for his movers to take it. So I replied and pointed this out. I suggested that given it had not worked from day one he should have contacted me earlier, before undertaking work for additional cost which I did not agree to and he also should have spoken to his removers because the scenario he outlined sounds very much like it was damaged in transit.

His subsequent replies have now veered into the realms of name calling. Thus far I am a liar, immature and he does not like my tone. It seems that defending your own corner is now something to be mocked. He is of course refusing to even speak to his removal company, won't say why he waited three weeks to contact me and has created a fantasy in which complex, unboxed electrical items are invulnerable to damage in transit.

In addition to turning up uninvited at my home (a breach of eBay seller etiquette if not their actual rules) he has begun name calling and also making threats to go out-with the eBay procedures. In fact I have now told him twice that I am happy to abide by the eBay resolution process. One assumes they have robust procedures in place for just this eventuality. One suspects, given his behaviour that the reason he is yet to raise a complaint via eBay is that he doesn't have much of a case and thinks intimidating me is a better tactic.

Little does he know the futility.

In our last exchange he threatened to report me to eBay (which of course I have been encouraging him to do since last Friday) but he gave me a deadline that is actually some time before the deadline given by eBay to resolve the matter between us before they can intervene. Given the level of discourse from him has dropped to threats and name calling I've had to report his conduct to eBay myself. Whether I ultimately end up 'winning' this dispute is to an extent irrelevant. I'm not prepared to be intimidated by an irrational and unprofessional bully in anyway shape or form.

Unfortunately the 'not as described' claim is a well know fiddle on eBay to get out of paying for an item and of course this guy is now also trying to get me to pay for additional repairs and his other costs - all incurred (based on his version of events) without any go ahead from myself. At the moment my Pay Pal account sits in debit (they take the money straight out of the amount pending resolution of the initial return request) so I cannot use eBay or Pay Pal and of course I no longer have my item or any hope of getting it back without incurring enormous cost especially as his movers managed to break it.

Frankly though I am quite enjoying winding him up. In my experience he's the classic bully and he hates me standing up to him.

Will update as we progress. His deadline for reply was the 23rd of June but I will be waiting until one minute to midnight on the actual deadline eBay cited, why ? Because I can.

Update - 24th of June.

I've now replied to my buyer and so far he hasn't, as I've requested three times in writing, set up an eBay resolution claim.

Earlier in the week I was forced to report him to eBay for asking me to circumvent their rules and turning up uninvited at my home.

As he hasn't bothered, for some reason, to start a resolution claim I've actually had to do it myself to ask eBay to step in. It's really quite bizarre that he's raised an issue, refused to try and sort things out with either me (in a realistic fashion) or with his removals company and now I've been forced to set up the claim with eBay myself. I'm pretty sure from reading about 'not as described' claims on line that the process is stacked against the seller but hopefully his silly position and name calling will go against him.