Cross purposes over a company name

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The Independent Online
A COMPANY called Blue Cross - which has nothing to do with the American insurers Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, the biggest private health insurer in the US - will be launching a range of medical fees insurance policies in the UK next month.

It is associated with an international company called Blue Cross Asia and Pacific, which claims to cover 500,000 clients in different countries and also has no connection with the US organisation.

A spokesman for lawyers representing the Blue Cross organisation in Chicago says: 'We have requested that the UK company stop using the name Blue Cross.'

The British company, which trades under the name of Blue Cross Preferred Hospital Plans, has put the matter into the hands of its lawyers.

It claims it will provide better benefits at a more competitive cost than the competition.

Blue Cross will launch its product range on 3 February. The policies will be sold by agents and intermediaries. They will be supervised by regional directors who each buy a territory.

Directors are not expected to sell plans, although they can do so if they wish. However, regional directors will receive fees on every premium paid by clients through agencies held in their territory.

The medical fees insurance market is highly competitive. However, according to Blue Cross's literature sent to prospective regional directors, 'our secret weapon lies in our commission rates'.

The renewal commissions in particular are significantly higher than the industry norm. Blue Cross claims that it will be particulary competitively priced in the 25-50 age group.

A 35-year-old single man would pay pounds 12.96 a month with Blue Cross for a six-week wait policy. With Bupa the premium is pounds 14.45 a month.

The Blue Cross Living Care policy, which has a range of options, starts with basic cover for pounds 17.67 a month.

And the top-of-the-range Preferred Hospital Plan is pounds 30.58 a month. The most comprehensive Bupa policy is pounds 69.28 a month and includes cover for the big London teaching hospitals.

Blue Cross has more than 100 'preferred hospitals' with which it has negotiated procedural price limits. Other hospitals, including the major London teaching hospitals, are not normally available to Blue Cross subscribers.

Penny O'Nions, a doctor and a director of the independent financial advisers De Havilland, says: 'GPs like to use particular specialists. If you have a preferred hospital scheme it can be a problem.

'You will have to see what hospitals are available and then you can consult only those specialists which use hospitals on the list.'

Niel Roberts, managing director of Blue Cross, says: 'The maximum distance a patient would have to travel to a preferred hospital is 25 miles.

'And if it is a very specialised condition and a medical necessity the plan allows for access to any hospital in the country.'

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