The Business Year

Andrés Mejí­a

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC - Health & Education

Rapid Leaps

CEO, ARS Palic

Bio

Andrés Mejí­a is a Colombian medical surgeon and health economist at CES University. He has participated in the implementation and development of social security in Latin America. He is a member of ALAMI and the current Chairman of the Board of Directors of the ARS Dominican Association. For 13 years, he has served as CEO of ARS Palic, a health insurance company with more than 50 years of experience in the sector.

TBY talks to Andrés Mejí­a, CEO of ARS Palic, on employing technology to drive business, expanding insurance coverage, and his outlook for the sector.

How has the local insurance market evolved in the last few years and how has ARS Palic adapted to that?

The sector is growing quickly, due to the fact that the country’s social insurance system is still relatively young. It was only set up eight years ago covering around 500,000 people. Today, 67% of the population—6.7 million people—is covered. One of the main challenges we faced was adapting to a fast growing and changing sector. We always predict and adapt to the increasing number of affiliates and medical services provided and covered by the system. We have put a great deal of effort into being ready to capture these changes from a human resources and technological point of view. Our target was always to grow faster than the sector, which we have achieved year after year.

How has technology transformed the way ARS Palic does business?

Technology has been one of the leading drivers behind ARS Palic’s growth and expansion. We believe technology has a vital role to play in different spheres of our daily activity and interaction with customers. We were the first insurance company with our own native app and the first with a digital transactional system for service providers and intermediaries. Internally, we have implemented CMR software with Salesforce to manage relationships with our customers. New technologies enable us to provide high-quality services to our more than 800,000 affiliates. We always bear in mind in our strategy that we live in an increasingly demanding and ever-growing world in terms of technology. All in all, better technology makes us more competitive.

What are some main challenges the country faces in expanding coverage among the population?

In order to expand social security coverage to a larger portion of the population, we need to tackle the informal economy in which half the population is engaged in. We also need to keep in mind that not everybody within that group can contribute to the system and some might need subsidies. We need to better understand their situation. This will be one of the main topics of discussion in the near future as we start discussing the fine details of legal and labor reforms in the country. We need to find the tools and strategies to reduce informality in our economy, encourage these micro entrepreneurs and SMEs to regularize their situation, and help people subscribe to the social security system independently. Health insurance is a great way to start reducing the informal economy before moving on to things like pensions and other insurance products.

What do you see the insurance sector looking like in five years’ time?

We need to tackle the challenge of independent workers as well as micro and other small enterprises as quickly as possible. Once we do so, the sector will open the door for many growth opportunities. We should also see fewer industry players in five years, which will lead to a further concentration of providers and more advancement in treatment methods as well as technologies. I also foresee changes in the provision of services and access to service models. Today, we have a completely open model where anyone can go anywhere. This is not economically sustainable in the long run. Nonetheless, I see more people being covered by a higher quality of services in the years to come.

What are ARS Palic’s goals for 2017?

We want to consolidate our growth above the market rate and do so in a sustainable and socially responsible way. We have been certified by A Great Place to Work Institute as one of the top companies in the Caribbean and are committed to offering the best environment to our employees. We want to continue our technological transformation and maximize the possibilities of our CRM platform. We foresee more technological changes related to risk management in order to better prevent chronic diseases, which is one of the key health challenges in the world right now.

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