By Kimberly George, global head, innovation and product development, and Malcolm Hughes, executive chairman, Ireland
If we’ve learned anything from the past few years, it’s to expect the unexpected. Illness can strike at any moment. Accidents happen. Flights are delayed or canceled without warning. Luggage might not arrive at its intended destination. Supply chain disruptions mean products aren’t always available when we want them. Geopolitical tensions can escalate quickly. Scheduled plans change. Service providers may not have sufficient staffing to meet demand.
Amid all of this unpredictability, companies are struggling to fulfill consumers’ high expectations and desire for instant gratification. Despite their best efforts to provide positive customer experiences in uncertain times, factors largely beyond their control present new and evolving challenges. In an effort to take care of customers when things unexpectedly go wrong, many large organisations — those servicing a multinational clientele in particular — are increasingly looking to a category of insurance coverage known as accident and health for answers.
What is accident and health?
In the U.S., accident and health (A&H) insurance is a broad term for specialty policies available through an employer or carrier. The coverage pays benefits in case of sickness, accidental injury or accidental death. It may also pay for loss of income or debt payment in connection with a loan.
Internationally, accident and health refers to benefits offered through a wide range of covers, including group and individual disability, personal accident, travel insurance, medical expenses, medical assistance, critical illness, death and disability. It also encompasses aviation personal accident, war risks, sport accident and kidnap and ransom insurance.
Organisations offering A&H benefits typically include carriers, reinsurers, employers, banks and credit card companies. Some kinds of accident and health coverage qualify as embedded insurance, which means the option of protection is offered to the consumer at the time they purchase another product or service (like event tickets or travel reservations). In certain cases, coverage may kick in as soon as the transaction is completed.
The market conditions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath have sparked a new wave of popularity for accident and health insurance.
- The resumption of travel after COVID-related restrictions were lifted, combined with airline and airport labor shortages, have led to an influx of travelers but not enough workers to meet their needs. Service providers are in desperate need of additional ways to build loyalty, protect their brand reputation, and take care of passengers when things don’t go according to plan. The support behind A&H coverage acts as a supplemental form of customer service and, in some cases, more like a concierge service.
- After an extended pause in travel due to COVID, business and leisure travelers are eager to resume their pre-pandemic routines and plans. However, they know from news reports of stranded luggage and nightmarish travel stories shared on social media that their journey may not going smoothly. They want protection from the associated risks and the peace of mind that A&H coverage and 24/7 support can provide.
- In an exceedingly tight labor market, employers are looking to benefits as an important part of their talentretention and recruitment strategy. An A&H programme is a great way to assure current and prospective employees that the organisation cares about their well-being. For multinational employers and those whose employees travel abroad, global accident and health coverage ensures their people have trusted and reliable assistance, no matter where in the world they are.
With A&H developing into an alternative avenue for customer care, the burden of resources is shifting to insurers. However, insurers are engaged in the same war for talent as the rest of the market. As a result, some are turning to business process outsourcing (BPO) and other partnerships to meet the growing demand for services and ensure compliance with varying international regulations. When strategic partners’ capabilities are well integrated into the claims process, consumers can benefit from the additional expertise, resources, technology and global coverage they bring to bear and a seamless, end-to-end customer experience.
In today’s challenging economic and regulatory environment, accident and health coverage providers aim to deliver exceptional care during less-than-ideal times. With the right level of expertise and empathy, they can transform a bad day into a better one and an unhappy policyholder into a loyal customer.
> Learn more — see our travel claims management brochure for additional information on Sedgwick’s accident and health solutions for insurers, employers, corporate entities, agencies and associations