We talk to Caroline Ratner, founder of the first medical travel insurance company

 

How did you come up with the idea for a medical tourism travel insurance product?

About three years ago I’d just sold my first business, Halos n Horns and wanted to go to Thailand to see some friends and was seriously considering surgery but hadn’t booked anything. I was very worried about having surgery without insurance, I would have been so much happier if a product had been available but it just wasn’t. I tried to find travel insurance that would cover me for surgery but there was nothing. I came back from my trip to Thailand and started looking into setting up a medical travel insurance company and spent a number of years developing the product before launching it last year in October 2008 at the worst point of the recession.  

How did you set up a travel insurance company without a background in the highly regulated insurance business?

I run the business and development side of the company and the Angelis Group is regulated by the FSA.  We work alongside a team of insurance professionals and experts and a financial director and we are in partnership with brokers, insurance underwriters and expert claim handlers and 24 hour assist companies.

You are about to celebrate your first year in business – have you reached your targets?

The business has gone really well and exceeded expectations, and is growing rapidly.  We went for a really soft launch and customers have found out about us through insurance brokers and facilitators and through Google and so far we haven’t needed to do any marketing or PR.

We estimate that only around  10,000 medical tourists  took out policies which means that out of the 100,000 to 150,000 UK citizens that travel abroad for surgery or treatment each year only a small percentage so far have taken out travel insurance which means that tens of thousands UK medical tourists currently don’t take out travel insurance – so therefore the market is potentially huge.

Capturing that percentage of the market in your first year is impressive – why do you think this has happened?

I think that this has happened because we’ve filled a gap in the market.  Even though this is a new product and a new concept in travel insurance it is something that people assume is out there and a product that people actively look for when they are booking their surgery abroad.  As a result we haven’t had to educate people about the product and spend thousands on marketing and PR campaigns to convince them that they need this product; the need was there before the product existed as regular travel insurance doesn’t cover people going abroad for medical treatment.

Our conversion rate speaks for itself – 98% from all web enquiries.

Who is your competition?

The insurance business is one of the largest in the world and it seems incredible that it previously had no foothold in the medical travel insurance market and that it took an outsider to spot the gap in the market and launch the first product.

Other travel insurance companies have only just started offering medical travel insurance, but all they’ve really done is remove the medical tourism exclusions.  Angelis is the only exclusive one and we are working hard to make sure we stay ahead of the game for example by giving travellers a 12 month rolling claim period.  If anything goes wrong within twelve months of travel the insurance will pay for a return trip to their original destination. .

We’ve also made sure that unlike other travel insurance policies which are jargon heavy and  complicated that our policies are as clear, concise and as easy to understand as possible and written from a patient perspective.

What is the average spend per head?

The price varies but anything from £40 for dental to £200 for elective and £120 for cosmetic.

Have you had many claims?

We’ve actually had very few claims as few people have problems with their surgery. We offer a unique service in that we have a twelve month claim window in our policies for patients to return for follow up surgery or treatment.  This includes all flights and accommodation etc. And while we have some competition none offer this 12 month claim period.

Where does most of your business come from?

Most of our business is currently coming from individual travellers based in the UK and UK domiciles but we  are expanding to Europe and the Middle East.

Do you sell insurance to corporate entities or is it just consumer?

We are about to launch a group policy which will be on the market by the end of the year. The group policy will cover all of Europe and the rest of the world.  It’s such a broad market that we are going to concentrate on B2B which will enable hospitals and facilitators to offer our insurance in their own wrapper as part of the fees they charge. So we can subcontract our services to facilitator and healthcare providers who will put our medical travel insurance in the package price and sell the product directly to individual medical tourists rather than them coming to us directly.

What’s next?

Angelis Group is expanding to add on more services including pre and post op aftercare, savings plans and additional insurance solutions relevant to the medical tourist.

We are also currently looking for investors for a Middle Eastern partnership and are talking to insurance brokers and underwriters and we plan to licence and franchise the brand in the Middle East.  While the US is an obvious market with huge potential we want to have the European and Middle Eastern group policies established before we start expanding there.

We are a small business with a large reach and we want to keep it that way.  If we stay small we can stay agile. It means we can be responsive and act quickly without being too bogged down by bureaucracy and cumbersome corporate infrastructures. It means we can still offer unique benefits like the twelve month open claim window.

The Angelis Group is regulated by the FSA.

FURTHER CONTENT PUBLISHED BY THIS AUTHOR

Medical tourism: Role of travel insurance in medical tourism

Resources, 23 July, 2009

Leila Wilcox: Malta Medical Tourism Summit 2009

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