The Business Year

Andrés Mejí­a

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC - Health & Education

A Result of Commitment

Executive Vice-President, ARS Palic

Bio

Andrés Mejí­a is a Colombian surgeon, doctor, and health economist with 20 years of experience in risk management and health and social security insurance.

What have been some of the highlight achievements of ARS Palic in the Dominican insurance industry? ANDRÉS MEJÍA Ours is a company that stands out for its vast experience in […]

What have been some of the highlight achievements of ARS Palic in the Dominican insurance industry?

ANDRÉS MEJÍA Ours is a company that stands out for its vast experience in the sector and its strong economic and financial support—we are the partner-company of Grupo Financiero BHD and Grupo Sura. These are two business groups highly recognized in their respective countries, which decided to enter the Dominican market during a period of reform in the health insurance, having foreseen considerable business opportunities. While the oldest insurance sector company in the Dominican Republic, it underwent a rebranding process in the early 2000s, from which ARS Palic was born in 2003. The firm was established as a result of the groups’ social commitment to the nation. In this context, we have been the fastest growing company in the market over the past five years, which has made ARS Palic the leading institution in many segments of the insurance sector, having enabled us to gain trust and a strong reputation throughout society.

What are the main benefits of being part of as strong a business group as Grupo Financiero BHD?

Being part of such a strong financial group has given us a boost in terms of reputation and recognition among many individuals and companies from day one, as well as market positioning. Also, being a partner of Grupo Sura—a key player in the development of the health sector in Colombia—has given us other competitive advantages, such as know-how.

How does ARS Palic work toward educating the population on insurance products and services?

The insurance industry currently accounts for around 1.3% of GDP, which is less than observed among our regional neighbors. And for that reason, the insurance market in the Dominican Republic still offers much growth potential. That 1.3% could easily be doubled, and, in fact, I would add that the health insurance segment is one of the fastest growing, offering the greatest potential. Approximately 10 years ago, health insurance represented just a small segment of large insurance companies’ business, whereas today it has outgrown the general insurance segment, which is why there are now companies exclusively dedicated to this particular line. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when talking about the health insurance segment; 65% to 70% of the income of companies similar to ARS Palic derives from social insurance. For that reason, we must work on educating people about insurance, and our development is tightly linked to the expansion of the country’s labor market. Therefore, as the informal economy declines, the sector will grow. In this context, we are working toward that goal with the authorities and various other institutions. However, that is a common goal at the national level, because the informal economy still represents 55% of the overall economy. Additionally, as per capita expenditure grows, so too will the sector.

What are the products with which ARS Palic is experiencing the fastest growth?

The current balance of our income is 65% from social insurance and 35% from private plans. However, high levels of inflation are impacting our products and those of the entire health insurance sector.

What measures does ARS Palic implement regarding quality control among its providers?

Currently, we have over 5,000 service providers, though the standardization of their processes is rather complex. However, we hold daily meetings with both service providers and clients in pursuit of excellence, which is one of our key goals as a company. Additionally, we continuously apply international protocols to improve the quality of our services and products, and carry out internal controls to the most exacting standards. We train our employees in this field to strongly develop such processes in-house, and I consider this to be another of our competitive advantages today.

How is ARS Palic building bridges with its clients?

The relationship between ARS Palic and its clients is built through several other agents. However, we have positively worked to get closer to our clients, while respecting the work of our agents. In this context, we carry out hundreds of activities annually at the premises of those companies to build such links. Additionally, we have subscribed the company to many social events and activities in the social sphere related to the prevention of health hazards and diseases. For example, we became involved in activities and health campaigns that concern the whole world, such as breast cancer prevention. ARS Palic is very concerned about this disease, and we decided not to charge any co-payments to patients undergoing a mammography. Finally, I would like to highlight our large investment in PR and marketing aimed at getting closer to our clients. We have also deployed mobile units for people to better learn how to conduct self-checks to prevent breast cancer with highly qualified doctors who dispense advice. This is just one example of the kind of activities we carry out to promote ARS Palic and stand out amid such a competitive industry. Since 2009, we have also been official patrons of Operation Smile, an international foundation that aims to reintegrate into society disadvantaged children suffering from cleft palate or lip problems, through free reconstructive surgery. With this project, we have given smiles to more than 400 children.

What are the company’s expectations for 2014?

Our plans include providing continuity to the organic growth process we undertook some years ago, maintaining our leadership position in the industry, and increasing our market share—we currently have a 21% market share in the private sector. What’s more, we will continue to update our services and products to meet the demands and needs of the market, all while continuing to invest in technology across all of our processes. In fact, I should highlight that we are the only ARS in the country offering its own interactive mobile app to our customers. Finally, we will also expand our national branch network to better cover the geography of the Dominican Republic, and our clients.

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