Insurance companies have begun to enter the aesthetic medicine sector by replicating the business model that they have already successfully applied in the dental sector: payment for use at scaled prices. Companies such as Sanitas, the Catalana Occidente group or Atlántida have launched policies that at a reduced price give access to a wide portfolio of treatments, from hair restoration, to surgeries, physiotherapy, hair removal, dieticians or dermatological treatments against acne or wrinkles.
Antoni Giralt, general director of the insurer Atlántida, which launched this service after the pandemic, explained that it allows the company to differentiate itself in the market, retain customers and attract new ones. “We even decided to create an aesthetic clinic because we saw that our specialists, such as dermatologists, referred patients to external centers because the treatments they needed were not covered by our health policy.”
Catalana Occidente, for its part, as well as its investees Plus Ultra and Seguros Bilbao, have been marketing Salud Bienestar since 2021, a product that also includes dental and ophthalmological coverage, among others. According to Daniel Ciprés, the group’s director of health, “he is contracted above all by middle-aged people, who usually go to public health, but who need to complement that coverage with services that do not include public centers and enjoy private health through of the pay-per-use system.RELATED
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Insurers such as Sanitas or Atlántida, which have their own clinics, also offer treatment to the uninsured. At Atlántida, explains Giralt, they offer “a fixed price for treatments, cheaper than what can be found in most doctors and we offer an additional discount to our policyholders, to whom we also offer free first visits and some treatments. Those who are not clients end up insuring themselves, because it is more profitable for them”.
According to medical societies, Spain is the fifth country in the world with the most plastic surgery interventions: nearly 450,000 in 2021. Dr. Víctor García, president of the Spanish Society of Cosmetic Medicine and Surgery, explains that some of the practices promoted the insurers in their policies as a claim, such as the first free visits, are already being applied by many private clinics. García warns of the impact that the irruption of insurance companies can have on professionals but also on the quality of service received by patients. “There are treatments that are not easy to assess. In an anti-wrinkle treatment, how many are treated? And what substance and in what quantity is injected? Because that, which the doctor would have to decide, is key in the cost but also in the result of the treatment”. In his opinion, for an insurer these treatments “are not easy to scale and it is difficult to cover the risk well”, while for the patient the results may be far from her expectations.
The insurance that is on the market, with a premium of around 10 euros per month, does not include deficiencies or waiting lists and does not exclude pre-existing pathologies, because it is the user who pays for the bulk of the services he uses.
Companies launch scaled insurance, with very low premiums, in which the user pays per medical act
Insurers, recalls Giralt, already have in all cases a medical team and concerted clinics capable of providing these services, since they cover cosmetic repair and reconstructive surgery interventions at no cost to the insured, that is, when they are the result of accidents or of illnesses covered by their policies. For example, treatments to remove scars resulting from burns in a traffic accident or cancer treatments.
In some situations it is not clear whether a plastic treatment is restorative or has a purely aesthetic purpose. For example, when the condition requiring surgery causes emotional or psychological problems, rather than functional problems. In these cases, however, many companies choose to offer psychological therapy to the patient so that he accepts the image of her.
Tsunami for an atomized sector
The arrival of the insurers could unleash a tsunami in a sector, that of cosmetic medicine and surgery clinics, which is highly fragmented. “It can produce a destruction of the business fabric like the one that has been experienced in the dental sector,” admits Dr. Víctor García, president of the Spanish Society of Cosmetic Medicine and Surgery, in which independent practice has been replaced by franchise chains . Faced with a possible economic crisis, “many doctors can agree to work for these firms and their scale system,” acknowledges Garcia.
The income of cosmetic surgery clinics recovered last year, with growth close to 16%, according to data from the DBK Informa Sector Observatory, after having fallen 19% the previous year due to the impact of covid, which forced them to to close for several months and limited its capacity, in addition to reducing the disposable income of many of its potential clients. The aesthetics sector, DBK points out, is the most fragmented of specialized medical services: the five large hospital groups in the country account for 48% of the turnover -of some 150 million euros-, compared to 72% in the dental industry.