Not all HMO brands are created equal


Not all health maintenance organizations (HMO) brands are created equal. Some may offer attractive rates, but the quality of service leaves something to be desired.

This was realized by Michelle Cordero-Garcia, Human Resources (HR) Director of SGS, the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company, when the organization was looking for an HMO to provide the health insurance needs of its 1,300-plus employees.

After considering offers from different HMOs, SGS decided MediCard was the best option.

“We’ve been partners with MediCard, a leading HMO provider in the country, for over 20 years now and we’re satisfied with their services. But there was a time when we considered other options,” related Garcia. “The premium offered by the other HMO was very tempting — significantly lower by 25 percent than MediCard’s.”

But SGS eventually saw the difference in how the two HMOs took care of their clients. “When I say clients, it’s not just the human resources department or the decision-makers of the company, but the rank-and-file employees, too,” says Garcia. “The level of trust and our relationship with them (MediCard) is deeper.”

Garcia says when their employees are hospitalized, MediCard is always there — to answer questions, to check how the patients are doing and to explain their MediCard benefits. 

“MediCard is always easy to talk to. There are instances when a particular medical service isn’t part of the coverage, and the employee doesn’t have the financial capability to shoulder it. MediCard is very flexible and provides other options,” adds Garcia.

The benefits of MediCard

SGS has three main units in the Philippines: SGS Philippines Inc., providing the SGS Group’s services to the country’s various industries; SGS Gulf Limited (Regional Operating Headquarters) and SGS Global Business Services for Asia, the global back office.

 The company also has commercial site and satellite offices in key cities (Cebu, Surigao, to name a few) nationwide, including SGS Subic Bay Inc. with its petroleum laboratory. SGS also runs SGS Academy (in Makati and Cebu), which offers courses primarily related to quality management and risk assurance, including food safety and compliance standards and business performance enhancement.  With SGS able to service practically any industry and business – from food to consumer products to petroleum to construction products to minerals to occupational safety, their employee base is comprised of people from various professional backgrounds.

“Fifty percent of our employees — inspectors, ISO auditors, and sales people — do field work,” explained Garcia. “Their safety is our primary concern and we’re happy to have a reliable partner in MediCard to ensure that their medical needs are well taken care of.”

Apart from MediCard’s reputable partner hospitals, clients also have the option to go to MediCard’s free-standing clinics all over Metro Manila for consultations and medical tests. The main clinic is MediCard Lifestyle Center in Makati City.

“Our employees love going to the MediCard Lifestyle Center. They find the location very convenient  and some even prefer going there than to a hospital,” enthused Garcia.

SGS employees usually have their annual physical examination (APE) done at the SGS office. Those who miss APEs at SGS go to the MediCard Lifestyle Center so they can also attend yoga and other wellness programs, which are offered free of charge.

 At SGS, the HR department has a ticketing system to manage and respond to employees’ requests and needs. When SGS employees need assistance, they send an e-mail and the HR team replies right away.

“MediCard is one of the very few partners that’s in our ticketing system. That’s how engaged they are. Our account officer and the MediCard team receive and respond to HMO-related tickets. They’re committed to give that service,” she added.

According to Garcia, MediCard’s service is more personalized. The HMO brand knows the cases of SGS’s employees by heart — the history of their medical conditions. “And because of that, the coordinator assigned to us proactively assists our employees,” added Garcia. “For instance, one of our employees has a kidney problem. Our reliable coordinator already knows how to respond to his needs.”

SGS employees also love MediCard’s fast online approval for laboratory tests requests.

HMO users usually need to secure a letter of approval (LOA) to confirm that a particular laboratory test is, indeed, part of a member’s medical insurance coverage. These tests include blood tests, urinalysis, and chest X-ray.

Getting an LOA is usually a process that can be very time-consuming and inconvenient.

MediCard has taken the hassle out of getting the LOA with its MediCard Online LOA, an application that allows the client to easily request for an LOA for diagnostic tests anytime, anywhere — from the comfort of his own home, office or by using a mobile phone.

 “This add-on service is fast and efficient,” says Garcia. “It is one of the reasons why we’ve been with MediCard for almost 20 years.”

At SGS, employees’ health comes first

Believing that employees are the backbone of its business, SGS provides above industry-standard employment benefits.

“Our employees may be entitled to guaranteed bonuses, an annual incentive program, flexible benefits, group life insurance, and an online rewards and recognition system where they get points, which they can use to shop online, for completing certain projects,” said the amiable HR director.

 “It’s our number one driver for retention. We also give employees rice and laundry allowance, birthday leave, even memorial plans,” says Garcia.

Also giving priority to its employees’ health, SGS has chosen to get only the best healthcare program — from MediCard. “When you have satisfied and healthy employees, they’re more productive — not just at work — but in life in general. If they’re okay, if they’re happy, it will reflect in their performance. In return, it benefits the company,” Garcia added.