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COVID-19’s impact on health insurance trends

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Interview with Jerome Droesch, Chief Executive Officer, Middle East and Africa (MEA), Cigna

In the initial days of COVID-19, there were numerous questions from the public who wanted to know how they could protect themselves from the virus and access treatment. There were also questions from clinical teams about how they could support the members who were infected, support their families, as well as concerns around the risk of contracting the virus themselves.

In an interview with Omnia Health Magazine, Jerome Droesch, Chief Executive Officer, Middle East and Africa (MEA), Cigna, said that as a health service company, Cigna has been able to be at the forefront of the COVID-19 crisis and has strived to support its clients, members and partners.

“We are a global company and saw the effects of COVID-19 in China and Asia early on and were prepared for it well in advance here locally. We started working from home before the new regulations came in and were prepared to absorb all the volume of activity from the pandemic,” said Droesch.

When asked about how Cigna responded to the increase in demand for telemedicine during the pandemic, he highlighted: “There are two main pillars in terms of the actual access to care. First and foremost, we do provide telemedicine, and this is part of our terms and condition. Also, single members have access to our global solution that anyone can access 24/7 and get access to care whenever it's needed. This was an absolute must-have, and something that was a real differentiator in the market during this period, enabling any of our members wherever they were in the world to be able to access care. Secondly, we've supported all the local providers to be able to provide virtual care to any of our members.”

Impact on wellness

Recently, Cigna carried out the ‘COVID Global Impact Study’ to understand the impact on wellness, and what could be the consequence of the pandemic, above and beyond immediate treatment.

“We found that thanks to technology, people were able to still keep in touch with each other, probably even more than usual,” shared Droesch. “However, the consequence of this has been the “always-on” culture. So, people are always connected and that has created certain negative side effects. We also observed that to some extent people were struggling to find the right balance between their personal and their professional lives. So, we've seen more and more people working during the weekend.”

According to the study, 64 per cent of employees surveyed said that they were working during the weekends, which is significantly higher than what it was before COVID-19. The good news, he added, is that most people were also able to avoid some of the stress of working in the office and leveraged flexible working hours. The main question, Droesch stressed, is going to be around how people will adjust after many months of working from home.

Jerome Droesch, Chief Executive Officer, Middle East and Africa (MEA).jpg

Jerome Droesch
 

Appetite for insurance

In the early days of the pandemic, emphasised Droesch, the insurance industry was booming because many young people, those that are globally mobile, and were not always purchasing any insurance policy suddenly discovered that it was extremely important for them to get access to the right level of cover.

Furthermore, he said that recently Dubai announced that they will be issuing a five-year visa for retirees. “We are the only international insurance company working with Dubai Tourism. We do see a lot of appetite from people who want to stay back in the UAE as well as get access to an international policy to be covered both when they are living the UAE but also when they travel back either to their home countries or go on holidays across the world,” he added.

He concluded by saying that today everybody understands that access to care is incredibly important. However, there is economic pressure due to the pandemic. “Cigna is working to provide innovative solutions to offer access to care at an affordable price and at the same time give patients access to the best provider in the market, making sure they can access the best doctors and treatment whenever it's needed.”

This article appears in the latest issue of Omnia Health Magazine. Read the full issue online today, covering cybersecurity in healthcare, the ongoing rise of telehealth and much more.  

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