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Pressure on health care: Medavie plans to increase partnerships with governments

By Serge Therrien Alain Thériault | July 05 2018 07:00AM

Bernard Lord | Photo: Réjean Meloche

Medavie wants to help the Canadian health care system deal with the burden of an aging population and government debt by increasing partnerships with the public sector, as well as with other private companies.

As CEO of Medavie, Bernard Lord is putting his extensive political experience towards this goal. To achieve it, the public system and the private sector must work together and learn from other models to address the demographic trends that could put public and private health plans at risk, says Lord, the former premier of New Brunswick.

In the insurance industry, the company is best known through its subsidiary Medavie Blue Cross. The company has another subsidiary, Medavie Health Services, which provides health services across Canada and has offices in eight provinces.

This subsidiary also manages a 911 call centre and ambulance dispatch and delivers health care directly to one million Canadians annually.

For example, in New Brunswick, Medavie coordinates three different services: the ambulance Service, the 811 line, and the Extra-Mural Program for patients requiring follow-ups after visiting the doctor or after a surgical intervention.

Medavie also has a foundation: the Medavie Health Foundation. “Our three entities work separately. We will make them work together. We want to expand these services in other provinces,” Lord said in an interview with The Insurance and Investment Journal.

Medavie’s goal is to deliver care directly to people. “More home visits and more services in the community relieve the burden on emergency rooms and improve patient care. Our program in New Brunswick shows that when possible, patients prefer home care. We have run similar programs in other provinces. We are in talks with governments to add services,” said Lord.

He adds that Medavie sees itself as a health organization, which has an insurance component. “We have developed health care services. It differentiates us from other insurers. This allows us to properly manage group and individual plans, because we have special expertise in health.”

Medavie also trains paramedics and employs nurses. The company has 6,400 employees, including 1,900 at Medavie Blue Cross.

Seeking partnerships

During the interview with The Insurance and Investment Journal, Lord also expressed his interest in signing partnerships with other insurers. The company currently has a strategic alliance with The Co-operators, through which Medavie Blue Cross administers employer-sponsored group insurance policies in Quebec.

Lord says positioning the company as a health organization makes Medavie attractive to those who are dissatisfied with their group plan. “We have a lot of clients in markets in which we sell individual insurance. They see Medavie Blue Cross as a partner that protects them and their families, while allowing them to access drugs and services not covered by the government.

Medavie has also made significant investments in digital, especially in mobile applications, which allow the settlement of a claim within a few hours. “We’ll reduce it to a few minutes...and maybe, eventually, a few seconds,” says Lord. “The goal is to make people’s lives simpler. Technology is a way to improve customer experience.”

Regarding the industry’s reluctance to use big data to better understand its customers, Lord says he agrees that improvement is needed. Confidentiality must remain key, he emphasizes. “The service has to be fast, simple, efficient, but also confidential.”

Medavie does not intend to do everything on its own. “You have to find the right partners, whether they are governments or private companies. You have to use the data that is available in a collective way, without necessarily identifying the individuals. There is work to be done here. We have projects to develop. We want to move forward as an integrated health organization,” says Lord.

In addition, those insured by Medavie Blue Cross can view the status of their file on a mobile application. These digital advances make it possible to improve customer experience, he says. “We see what people are looking for and what they need, but we also measure how satisfied they are.”

Ahead of seeking profits, Medavie’s goal is to make an impact on the health of Canadians, Lord says. Medavie is a not-for-profit corporation.

“We have financial goals. We are profitable. We want to have an impact on the well-being of Canadians’ health. We see ourselves as partners of employers and governments. We can take a long-term view because of our governance structure. We reinvest profits in our systems, our employees, the reserves, and give back to our communities,” he says.

Lord says the company does very well in individual life insurance in the Atlantic Provinces, especially among those who have lost their group insurance.

Growth in group insurance

Despite significant growth in group insurance with the arrival of several clients including the cities of Halifax and Fredericton, Medavie Blue Cross did recently lose the City of Moncton as a client to Green Shield Canada.

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