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Healthcare on the move: Medical benefits advice for SMEs and start-ups

Healthcare on the move: Medical benefits advice for SMEs and start-ups



Human Resources talks exclusively to Ying Wu, CEO of Blüüm, for his insights on employee medical benefits for smaller and more nimble companies. Robert Blain reports

This is one of the articles from the Industry Viewpoints section of Human Resource’s 40-page Corporate Health Insurance Guide 2021. To download the full guide, click here.

Medical insurance is traditionally catered to large organisations by established players. While at the other end of the spectrum is personal medical insurance. This has recently been boosted by the voluntary Health Insurance Scheme (VHIS) for individuals, launched by the Hong Kong Government in April 2019.

Sandwiched between these two are SMEs and start-ups. This article looks at medical insurance options for these more nimble and smaller companies – at least at the outset. This present a unique challenge for medical insurers and providing viable health options for these workers requires a different approach.

For a look at how the once niche, or even non-existent, medical insurance market for SMEs and start-ups is now being serviced, Ying Wu, CEO of Blüüm, shares his insights. Blüüm offers technology-driven general health services and mental health services to employees in these entities, so they can manage their health better through its technology platform.

“There are a lot of red ocean (highly competitive) players targeting MNCs and they are in a very established market,” says Wu.

“But for SMEs there is a very strong need for flexibility, a strong need for health management. They want to be focused on the wellbeing of their employees because they are under high pressure – especially for a lot of these start-ups,” he adds.

“We want to customise an insurance solution for these Lalamove drivers. And protect their health, especially the risks that arise out of their exposure to Covid.”      

“These are the sectors we focus on. We realise that in order to manage their conditions, and ultimately manage the insurance plan, one of the best way is to offer a scenario-based insurance offering. This means we are focusing on what is happening to the employees.”

Tailored approach for nimble companies
One of Blüüm’s highest-profile clients is Lalamove. The on-demand delivery start-up has become one of Hong Kong’s most successful, with over 20,000 employees. The vast majority of workers are delivery drivers.

“During the Covid pandemic there is a strong need for deliveries, so deliveries are actually surging in the Hong Kong market. This actually exposes these Lalamove delivery drivers to a much higher level of risk, because they are the ones in contact with the people,” says Wu.

“It’s essential customise an insurance solution for these drivers. And protect their health, especially the risks that arise out of their exposure to Covid. For example, if they have to be hospitalised in an ICU (due to infection) we have great coverage for them.”

Wu adds that a tailored approach to cover these drivers as they are not part of the traditional office approach. Drivers are out there in the field so a better way is required to connect with them. This is achieved via social media, making the drivers more motivated to use the company’s health services.

Medical insurance trends
Technology is clearly the biggest trend in health insurance. Both large corporations and smaller companies are increasingly using technology to help manage the conditions of their employees and also to be able to prevent rather than just protect.

“I would like to emphasize the difference between these two concepts,” says Wu. “Protection means that the condition has already happened so this is managed with a large amount of medical expense – through the traditional approach of insurance and claim.

“But now, more and more employers are using preventative health services. And using the technology to manage employee claims is not only going to help employees have better overall health over time but also to manage the costs of the company.

“Because it’s only when you can manage the costs sustainably, that there can be a balance between employee health and the overall cost paid for employee benefits.”  

Personalisation of benefits
Employee benefits are also trending towards greater personalisation and the healthcare component of this is no exception. Smart use of data makes it possible to switch from a rigid model of medical services to one that is customisable and fluid.

“Before, we have seen modulised insurance products based on the risk profile of particular populations. This is because there is not enough data collected. But when we actually have a data platform we are able to collect people’s personalised data to enable them to use a self-service system and use the digital claim services. This gives us a better understanding of their health profile and their behaviour patterns,” explains Wu.

“In turn, this gives us a better understanding of employees’ risks on a personal level and enables us to more precisely underwrite these insurance products with the insurers that we work with. This not only offers a better service to employees but also helps us manage costs more effectively.”

Then there’s the specific role of HR. Compensation specialists are becoming more aware of the importance of proactively managing medical insurance as part of the employee benefits, leading to a more comprehensive rather than scattered approach.

So HR needs medical insurance solutions that enable it to manage the overall cost and manage the high-level claims proactively communicate with their employees to create a more personalised service.
Simplifying the process for HR
Health insurance is a complicated business that can be daunting for HR and employees alike. Given that it’s traditionally been an admin nightmare – involving an unwieldy claims procedure and mountains of paperwork to wade through. Mercifully, this is changing.

It’s worth shopping around for a medical insurer with a good HR management portal. This provides a better connection between HR and employees.

“A lot of the time when the company buys health insurance for their employees, employees are not necessarily aware of all the service offerings that the company’s providing. And often HR needs training session to make them aware of the offerings and how they can pass them on to the employees,” says Wu.

It is essential to have a system a mobile app and a web page that allows these employees to access a range of services on one platform, such as e-claims, mental and general health services, medical trial services and hospital recommendations – all of these services should be in one place.

As things become increasingly digitalised, it becomes easier to get this employee data back to HR to enable them to get a high-level understanding of what they are buying. And get a better understanding of how these services and insurance plans are helping their employees.

“This has the advantage of enabling HR to see the data on an ongoing basis, rather than once a year, which has been the traditional method,” explains Wu.

“This helps to serve the needs of HR as to how these employee benefits are being used and it also gives a stronger connection between the company and the employees.”

This is one of the articles from the Industry Viewpoints section of Human Resource’s 40-page Corporate Health Insurance Guide 2021. To download the full guide, click here.

Highlights of the guide include:

  • Market analysis: Expert insights from Aon’s Medical Trends Report
  • Industry viewpoints: Insider knowledge for corporates, SMEs and start-ups
  • HR perspectives: The pros share their wisdom on boosting employees’ healthcare benefits
  • Handy overview of Hong Kong’s top medical insurance providers

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