Western Provident Association
|Type||Not for profit Provident Association|
|Headquarters||Taunton, Somerset, UK|
|Key people||Julian Stainton, CEO|
WPA, or Western Provident Association, is a not-for-profit private medical insurance firm based in Taunton, Somerset. Its subsidiary, WPA Protocol Plc, administers corporate healthcare trusts.
In 1901, a group of workers founded the Reading Work People's Voluntary Hospital Contributory Fund to cover the costs of health care for their members. In 1939, it merged with the Bristol Hospital Fund, and in 1949 it was renamed the Western Provident Association (WPA). In 1992, WPA moved from Bristol to a specially designed building in Taunton, Somerset.
WPA was described by the World Health Organization as leading in the development of coinsurance, or "shared responsibility", policies, in which the patient pays a portion of the liability until an agreed limit.
WPA vs. Norwich Union Healthcare
In 1997, Norwich Union staff falsely claimed over e-mail that WPA was insolvent. WPA sued for defamation. Norwich Union made a High Court apology and paid £450,000 in damages and costs to settle the case. This was a landmark case because it was the first time e-mail was admitted as evidence in a British court.
Cancer Drugs and NHS Top-Up
In 2007, WPA launched a new insurance plan which provided a health "top-up", supplementing NHS treatment. The first policy, called mycancerdrugs, was the first of its kind in the world and funded cancer drugs licensed for use by the European Medicines Agency but not available on the NHS, including Avastin.
Subsequently, other insurance companies have entered the top-up market and criticism has been levelled at the products from the union Unison which stated that the products would undermine the values of the NHS and risk creating a two-tier system in health care.
WPA Protocol Plc
WPA Protocol administers corporate healthcare trusts. This is an alternative arrangement to private medical insurance whereby larger companies, defined by Protocol as usually those with 400 or more members, can use WPA's infrastructure to administer their own healthcare provision. Companies provide the funds from a trust, and WPA Protocol provides bespoke literature and telephone lines, as well as staff, infrastructure and economies of scale.
Trusts are not charged insurance premium tax and staff are considered to be more likely to claim responsibly from their own company as opposed to an insurer. Savings are estimated to be 7% compared to being fully insured.
WPA has a well established and British Franchise Association (BFA) approved UK franchise operation where local WPA franchisees advise on WPA health insurance products and provide on-going customer support. The franchisees are remunerated for retention as well as the growth of their business reflecting WPA’s focus on treating customers fairly. Franchisees must complete a training course, as well as ongoing training, and submit a Fidelity Bond, to ensure that customers are treated fairly, although no franchisee has foregone a fidelity bond.
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