Norwich Union Healthcare has made its solutions group private medical insurance available to smaller companies.
The product was originally established in May 2002 for businesses with between 50 and 249 employees but is now caters for firms with between 10 and 249 staff.
Solutions provides core cover and a range of options that allow companies to add or remove benefits to suit a range of employees. Core cover benefits includes hospital charges as an in-patient or day-patient, specialist consultations as an out-patient, the cost of nursing at home following in-patient or day-patient treatment and maternity cash benefit of £100 for each child.
Four additional cover options provide in-patient and day-patient psychiatric cover, GP referred services such as minor surgery and alternative treatments, extended hospital list and routine optical and dental cover.
There are four cost containment options, which reduce the core benefits. The six-week option provides in-patient treatment only where the NHS waiting list exceed six weeks, member excess allows a choice of a £50, £100, £150 or £200 excess, selected benefit reduction limits cover to in-patient, day-patient and outpatient cover and there is also the ability to reduce out-patient cover
The plan could be a useful addition to the group PMI market for smaller companies as it bridges the gap between bespoke and budget PMI plans within one product. Smaller companies could go for products such as Western Provident Association's Enterprise Smart Start, which is available to companies with at least three staff. However, its cover is limited compared with the Norwich Union plan, so it does not have as much flexibility to modify cover if circumstances change.
However, smaller companies are more likely to have a tight budget and although Norwich Union's plan offers ways of reducing costs without scrimping on cover, there are drawbacks. One drawback is that reduced out-patient cover is only available with the selected benefits reduction option and no other options can be selected where both options are chosen, which limits scope for cost reduction.