Fri | Oct 19, 2018

Lasco partners with Guardian on health care coverage

Published:Sunday | December 10, 2017 | 12:00 AMAvia Collinder
Jacinth Hall-Tracey, managing director of Lasco Financial Services Limited.

Lasco Financial Services Limited has partnered with Guardian Life on health care coverage for Jamaicans who are normally priced out of the market.

The two-month old product, called Lascare, allows Jamaicans who are micro traders or self-employed to buy individual health policies at group rates.

Lascare allows persons two options to buy coverage - either by applying for a loan and adding the health coverage premium to the loan amount; or applying directly for health coverage and paying the premiums annually or quarterly. In the first option, the loan would be serviced monthly.

"Lasco Financial, through its group policy, will facilitate persons applying for a Guardian health card. Lascare is the name used for our loan package which is bundled with the health card," said Managing Director Jacinth Hall-Tracey.

"To be very clear, LFSL does not sell nor broker insurance; instead we facilitate persons applying for a Guardian health card by leveraging affordable rates through our policy. Simply put they will be members under LFSL's health insurance policy," she said.

Lascare's premiums range from $1,350 to $7,600 monthly, based on the option and type of coverage selected. The plans cover doctor visits, prescriptions, lab and hospitalisation. There are select plans that include maternity, dental and optical care.

The partnership appears to align with Guardian Life's new push for business in the individual health market, having got the nod from regulator Financial Services Commission in October to pursue business in the segment previously monopolised by chief rival Sagicor Life Jamaica.

Lascare subscribers will also qualify for discounts on select pharmaceuticals marketed by sister company Lasco Distributors Limited to treat the major noncommunicable diseases - hypertension, diabetes and respiratory illnesses - on presentation of a prescription.

The brand 'Lascare' is not new to the Lasco group. It's the name given to a product line of household products and detergents sold by Lasco Distributors, but Hall-Tracey declined to comment on whether it has been repurposed for the health care plan, or would be shared by the two affiliated companies.

To qualify for the Lascare health plan, Hall-Tracey said, the subscriber must otherwise be utilising the services of Lasco Financial - whose products are now sold under the Lasco Money brand - either in the form of a loan application or payment, bill payment, MoneyGram transaction, foreign exchange transaction through the cambio, or and mobile top-up. The qualifying age range is 18 to 74.

"We enrolled the first 100 persons in October of this year," Hall-Tracey said.

The company launched the product by giving 70 customers free health care for the year, by offsetting the cost of their health coverage.

"Health coverage in Jamaica is low because of affordability. Many Jamaicans and their family members only receive health coverage through formal employment and a majority of Jamaicans are not formally employed. Lasco Financial Services believes that if these Jamaicans have more access to healthcare, regardless of their type of employment, it will improve their overall well-being," she said.

Commenting on the size of the potential market for the product, Hall-Tracey said the company's focus on micro entrepreneurs allows it to tap into a market segment that typically falls outside the scope of basic financial services.

"Only 20 per cent of Jamaicans have a health insurance plan. This is very low," she said.

avia.collinder@gleanerjm.com