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Acting for the greater good – how much should payers influence behaviour?

  • Nicola Jedrej

Payers have sought to be more ingrained into the behaviours of those insured and families, so should and should insurers influence how we behave in extraordinary times like these where there seems to be a need for intervention?

In a time of crisis, such as COVID -19, should individuals act for the greater good and support the collective societal needs rather than thinking only themselves or a smaller social bubble?  In some societies with a one-party system this collective thought process comes naturally. However, in parts of the world where there are multi party democracies with elected senates and leaders there is less conformity to follow rules and attain what could be improved outcomes for all.

There has been well documented flouting of social distancing and the nervous interviews of government medical advisors warning of a second wave due to increased social interaction and lack of adherence to rules and guidelines.

Prof Danielle Allen (Edmond J. Safra Center, Harvard University) is quoted during her TED interview as stating that “not abandoning the most at risk is the bed rock of society” and this should be non-negotiable in any society. With this as a minimum requirement can insurers play a role in this to protect everyone, not just those insured but altering all our behaviours?

 In the paper “The road map to pandemic resistance” Danielle writes that one key pillar is the testing protocols and cites the well managed process in Asia. But these efficiencies are very much underpinned by compliance and history - plus coming of the back of SARS, importantly also experience. These regulations and compliance are less visible in other regions.

Can we go as far to offer tracking devices on phone or other wearables such as Singapore and other Asian countries to ensure that compliance, such as having to self-isolate or adhering to a lockdown zone. If this is not mandated by the government then should payers’ step in and encourage those to download technology and share their data. Or is there now a case for payers to be more selective about paying COVID-19 claims where social-distancing guidelines have been flouted and unnecessary risks taken?

There are a multitude of various ethical questions around the use of data – privacy, data ownership, security, assumed consent and monitoring (more can be read in the paper link below from the Safra Centre), however should payers be working to normalise this for the benefit of those insured and the wider population.


How much needs to be mandated and how has the culture of individualism set a barrier in place for more collective thinking and responsibility? Given the difficulties payers have faced over the last years in improving general lifestyle choices to lessen chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease is a more pro-active approach needed. Less “nudge” and more a change of thinking or other incentives to promote the greater good.

It would be interesting to think about what incentives would work – certainly there will be financial benefits with a sustained decrease in COVID, but there are longer term positive outcomes for payers and those covered – and perhaps also a bi-product of a “feel good” which doesn’t have an immediate fiscal benefit but would engender perhaps loyalty and affinity.

Payers have sought to become a more active and positive partner in the health and lifestyle of customers and this relationship between customer and payer could be an opportunity to really address choices people make, both now and in the future for each person and society.





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