Professionally speaking, how challenging do you consider this new mission you undertook at MediHelp to be?
It is both an adventure and a challenge at the same time. Nevertheless, the private health insurance sector is not one I’m unfamiliar with. At the beginning of my journey in the banking area (while working for Volksbank Sindelfingen e.g. today Vereinigte Volksbank AG), I was also active in health insurance sales activities for private clients. However, now it will be the core business for me, which is something different. The health insurance market is a competitive and complex one that requires continuous education and research in the field.
Now at MediHelp, I feel I have gone a step up, both with the challenge and the adventure. Challenge, well after all, MediHelp is the market leader for International Health Insurance in the CEE. Adventure, because to be in the cockpit in the growth in an ambitious international plan, is both exciting and rewarding.
How would you describe the private health insurance market in Romania in comparison with the ones existing in Western and Eastern European countries (e.g. Germany, Bulgaria, Hungary)?
From my point of view, the Romanian health insurance market has great potential. At the same time, it is impressive to see the emerging innovations in the delivery of healthcare services.
Health systems used to be mainly centralized in the CEE, not leaving the patients with many options.
Health insurance is perceived to be more of a premium healthcare option rather than a must-have medical solution, where patients are permitted to opt out of the public system. This is a changing trend; we clearly see that the public starts to treat international private health insurance as a “must have”, to enable a large scope of possibilities for quality healthcare when in need.
The situation varies from one country to another. Take for instance, Hungary, where the private health insurance sector is negligible. Coverage is mostly supplementary and insurance is provided with life or accident insurance policies.
In Germany, on the other hand, the private medical insurance market is served by about 44 German insurance companies, and there are premium/benefit combinations available to suit most budgets. Generally, private health plans cover a wider choice of medical and dental treatment and can provide broad geographical coverage. Besides the private insurance market there are 124 statutory health insurance companies (called gesetzliche Krankenkassen). Only if you exceed a certain salary range can you chose a private health insurance company, otherwise you have to choose a statutory insurance one.
The private health insurance market here is striving for a bigger slice of a growing market supported by the increasing number of Romanians who choose private clinics or hospitals instead of public facilities.
Healthcare systems are systematized and financed in dissimilar ways across the EU Member States, but most Europeans would agree that universal access to good healthcare, at an affordable cost to both individuals and society at large, is a basic need. Taking this idea to the public is exactly the mission of MediHelp.
Recently, you have stated that you plan on “better establishing international health insurance as a ‘must have' among the Romanian target clients”. Could you tell us more about your plan and who are these key clients?
First of all, it is crucial to raise awareness of the benefits that international health insurance brings, such as: unlimited access to renowned doctors and to medical procedures in case of medical needs, extended network of medical suppliers; it covers hospitalization and reimbursement. As for companies, this product is also deductible.
Basically, the key clients are both corporations and individuals. It is a medical solution appropriate for every person that wants access for themselves and for their families to quality medical care in Romania and wherever they travel.
During the past few years, a new trend has arisen among Romanian insurers: overseas cancer treatments, Turkey being one of the most popular destinations. What is your opinion on this and what other medical services have caught the attention of insurers in Romania at the moment?
Going abroad has become a widely adopted way of obtaining care, especially when we are referring to treatments that are not available or not affordable in the local area. Turkey is not the only country for obtaining healthcare you need; patients can now be connected to leading medical facilities worldwide. For instance, oncological patients can now access first-class medical services at major internationally-accredited hospitals in Germany, Austria, England or France. Our insurance plan will cover the patient at any medical facility at the country of his or her choice. We shall help him with the navigation if they would not know what to choose.
What is your general impression of the Romanian healthcare system? What about private clinics?
In my opinion, the Romanian healthcare system, with a common effort of both private and public healthcare players, has made significant improvements.
It is important for Romanian patients to understand the value of having private health insurance because it gives access to both the private and public health sectors, both in Romania and worldwide, while the patient can focus on the medical issues and not on the financing.
With MediHelp you get coverage of more than 1 million euros per year per member, coverage for hospitalization and all related costs, air evacuation, cover for cancer treatment, transplant services, outpatient care, access to any clinic in the world and emergency services 24/7.
I also strongly believe that a clear governmental strategy is needed to encourage the development of private medical infrastructures, especially outside major cities.
Romanian patients also need to clearly make a distinction between a medical subscription and private health insurance as one has limited value, while the other offers an entire world of possibilities.
The core of private health insurance is that it is a business where one makes a decision today that will pay off when you need it the most. Regardless of whether we are talking days, months or years from now. The nature of this business makes it even more important to base today's decisions on reliable assumptions for the future.