Global Health Insider had the chance to talk to Will McAleer, the travel and assistance veteran who currently wears multiple hats – as, the President of World Travel Protection (WTP) Canada, Vice President of Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada (THIA), and Member of the Supervisory Board of the International Assistance Group (IAG).
As the health insurance industry evolves over the years, Mr. McAleer works actively with various stakeholders to tap into new claims self-management channels and telemedicine. He also pushes to bring greater clarity to consumers on the different types of protection and policy provisions. By partnering with strategic local providers, he equips WTP Assist with the right know-hows during emergencies, no matter where their clients are.
I have been an active member of the travel insurance and assistance industry since 1994. I have worked in many parts of the business, from business development and operations to assistance and claims management. I believe that people should travel the world – whether for business or pleasure – knowing they are protected. More accurately, I am passionate about having travellers excited about what is around the next turn in the road, not afraid of what might be there.
I also believe in giving back to the industry that has given so much to me. I have been involved with the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada (THIA) for many years and currently serve as Vice President. On the global stage, I am also a member of the Supervisory Board of the International Assistance Group (IAG).
WTP Assist has recently gone through a restructure and is well positioned to achieve our growth plans. Having recently celebrated our 25th anniversary, we know what it means to deliver emergency assistance in an ever-changing world. Our mission is to make life’s unexpected moments better. Simply put, we can’t change what has happened to a traveller – whether that is a sickness or an accident – but we can be there for them to make the event better. This may mean being the voice of calm at time of emergency, so that a family member knows we are looking after their loved one, wherever they may be. It also means that for our customers, we are delivering on the service promise they made to their insured or to their employee at their time of greatest need. We have challenged our team at WTP Assist to find ways to support our mission on each and every call.
As the world becomes more technology focused we are looking to develop service delivery in ways that extend beyond the telephone or email communications. Through the use of online claim portals – along with a soon-to-be-launched website – travellers will have the ability to claim on-the-go while they are still travelling and also be able to check their claim status online.
Beyond this, we see an evolution in the way assistance can be delivered to travellers. In fact, through our IAG Partnership, we are participating in their innovation working group. This is a forum where global assistance companies are working in concert to develop best-in-class innovation within the assistance marketplace. Through the IAG, we plan on exploring greater use of instant messaging applications, video medical service delivered through smartphones and other services designed to allow travellers to access the help they need in the easiest way possible.
I believe there could be more awareness for the need to travel protected. As the world has evolved, so has the thinking of travellers, not only about where they will be travelling, but also the protection they need to do so. In fact, we have done much promotion through our Canadian industry association (THIA) to promote the need through our video series, “Are you a street smart traveller?” The key message is that travellers should think about their travels and know these three important rules: Know your health; Know your trip; and Know your policy. In other words, as a savvy consumer, you should really know any health conditions you may have, understand where you plan to travel (and what you will be doing) and make certain that your policy is designed to provide the proper protection should something go wrong.
From a corporate travel protection perspective, it comes down to a company’s duty of care. If you have employees travelling on business, you need to make sure you are taking the proper steps to look after them should they get sick or injured while away. Failing to do so could result in liability exposure for your company. We believe there is more room to educate businesses as well as leisure travellers on the need to seek proper protection prior to the start of a trip.
One current challenge is educating travellers on the specifics in policies so they know what they are covered for and what they are not. Most travellers do not read the full policy wording on their policy and this is where issues can occur. At WTP Assist, we work with many underwriters to design policies with the traveller in mind. This means making sure there are clearly defined benefit provisions and realistic policy exclusions.
The Canadian market is undergoing a review with regulators looking at policy design and coverage expectations with consumer confidence in mind. Working through THIA, we are actively looking at ways to further increase consumers’ confidence in the policies they purchase. On the positive side, a recent survey found that 99 percent of claims submitted were paid.
Beyond this, we believe in ensuring that companies have the ability to provide travellers with focused assistance services wherever they are in the world. Through the IAG, we are able to access over 60 offices worldwide and a global medical database to ensure that travellers are referred to reputable medical facilities. The ability to leverage local representation wherever needed helps deliver a solution that provides the types of services needed in today’s world.
At WTP Assist, we are committed to deliver our promises to our customers, employees, shareholders and the community where we live and work. We have specialised in travel assistance for the past 25 years and we are experts when it comes to providing assistance when it is needed the most.
We understand that each of our customers is different and has different markets and needs. Rather than having standardised programs, we are dedicated to working with our customers to tailor our programs to best suit them. We also specialise in providing air evacuation and medical case management in high-risk areas in the world.
Through the IAG, we are able to leverage the local expertise in over 60 offices and thousands of medical providers. Our vetting processes also helps to deliver high-quality care even in less-developed economies.
From a Canadian perspective, we are also able to deliver additional value beyond our policy provisions for our corporate customers. We recently established a helpline for all plan members affected by the wildfires in Fort McMurray. While not within the scope of covered services, we decided to make our service team available through a dedicated toll-free number to facilitate communication with family members and provide access to medical referrals. This extraordinary response to an emergency situation was very well received by the plan sponsors.
As a Core Partner of IAG, WTP Assist has access to an international network of preferred providers and correspondents. In any situation, WTP Assist can use the wealth of knowledge and localised resources from the IAG network to help its customers.
WTP Assist is also partners with security service providers who provide travel information and specialised evacuation services to our customers. With this service, travellers can be better informed on any potential risks before they leave and also have their support should an unexpected event occur.