Employers urged to shop around for expat healthcare cover
Employers should shop around and ask questions about health and protection policies from their expat healthcare insurance providers to save money, one expert says. That’s because there are ‘huge inconsistencies’ in the policies being offered, pricing and commission fees.The warning came from the managing consultant at Punter Southall Health and Protection, Tristan Cleaver, who told an employee benefits masterclass that they should look closely at the policies being offered and ask questions of the provider.
He said that while policy costs will rise depending on the age of an employee, their occupation and their location, employers need to check the small print to ensure that all of the benefits being included are actually needed. He explained: “Do the employees need dentist or optical care? If not then cost can be significantly reduced.”
He added that firms with fewer than 50 employees tend to have the least negotiating power with expat healthcare insurers and many employers lack insight into how their scheme is working because insurers do not provide relevant data.
However, bigger employers do get access to the data and so better understand how their healthcare schemes are working – including who the high claimants are and how much profit the insurer is making; this is crucial information when it comes to the policy renewal.
Mr Cleaver said that health insurer commission fees can range from 0% to 20% and rules often change and he highlighted the recent move by Dubai that has brought in a 5% tax on health insurance premiums with little warning.
He added that while buying global health benefits for expats can be confusing and challenging, there is help available for employers to navigate the marketplace to find solutions that will suit their international employees more effectively.
Biggest threat to international travellers revealed
One employee benefits firm says the greatest threat to business travellers around the world is road travel. Collinson says that while kidnappings and terror attacks may be at the forefront of a traveller’s mind when on a business trip, road travel causes more injuries and fatalities.
The firm’s head of corporate travel, Randall Gordon-Duff, says a range of issues put expats and travellers at risk, including poor driving standards and road conditions, along with poorly maintained vehicles, lack of signage and poor adherence to basic road laws. He added: “Or it could be simply driver error due to alcohol misuse or tiredness.”
The firm recommends that in many countries, particularly those where travellers and expats are urged not to travel at night because of road conditions, there’s a need to consider using escorts and potentially using a comprehensively trained security driver.
Employers need to do more on expat mental health
Employers with expat employees need to do more in providing dedicated mental health support, researchers have found.
The findings from the Health Insurance Group show that just 34% of employers with staff working overseas have a specific policy in place to provide help with mental health issues.
The insurance firm says this is leaving thousands of vulnerable employees at risk as they have no idea of where they can turn to for help when suffering with mental health problems.
Researchers say expats relocating overseas, not only have to deal with the pressures of a new job, but also settling into a new culture, a home and a new way of life. If the expat leaves their family at home, then they may feel isolated and undergo stress and anxiety.
The Health Insurance Group’s head of international, Sarah Dennis, says that employers should have a specific policy in place that is tailored to meet the needs of expats in the country they are working in. She highlighted that expat staff also have different requirements, depending on their personal circumstances and age.
Ms Dennis said: “This is an area that organisations should give serious consideration to if they want to give their employees the support they need to settle in a new environment and work to their full potential.”
She added that the research also highlights that expats want to work for an organisation that takes their well-being seriously and forward thinking organisation should have a complete package of health care for their staff that looks after both mental and physical health.
Aetna’s Hong Kong mental health push
Meanwhile, Aetna International has unveiled a tie-up with mental health charity Mind HK in Hong Kong to help promote awareness of mental health issues among residents and expats.
A spokesman for Mind said that official figures reveal that one in six people living in Hong Kong have, at one time, had a diagnosable mental health issue but have had no help because the subject is taboo.
Japanese health crackdown on expats
Authorities in Japan have unveiled an investigation into the potential abuse of its health insurance system by expats living and working there.
There are worries that expats are joining the public insurance scheme illegally by obtaining residential status so they avoid paying costly medical fees.
One reason for the investigation is that growing numbers of medical facilities say they are struggling financially because more expats are not paying for their medical care.
Currently expats are encouraged to take out healthcare cover but hospitals say many expats are claiming to be permanent residents but there’s also an issue with growing numbers of people visiting Japan to undergo surgery without paying for it.
Airport screening for returning expats
Kuwait has unveiled a proposal from an MP to carry out a medical examination of returning expats entering the country. The idea is to use a building that is near or inside Kuwait International Airport for the examination of those who have travelled overseas and are returning to their jobs.
The MP behind the proposal says all expat workers should undergo a medical test, not just during their visa renewal to protect society and families because some may be suffering with communicable diseases. These expats, the MP says, should be treated or deported depending on their health condition or the disease,
He is also calling for regular screening of expats – not just when their work visa is due for renewal.
Women in the UAE increasingly enjoy maternity cover
The chief executive of Capital Health, Dr Mishal Al Kasimi, has revealed in an interview that more women working for private firms in the UAE will be able to get access to maternity cover. He said the trend for provision is increasing which removes ‘the challenge of employees having to pay’.
With the average cost of giving birth in the UAE being AED6,000 (£1,282/$1,633) in a public hospital, a private birth can cost up to AED22,000 (£4,700/$5,990) in a private room though Dr Al Kasimi says more still needs to be done in offering more women maternity cover in the country.
In other news…
International SOS has announced a collaboration with KPMG to offer a streamlined travel risk management system for their clients. It will be offering security and medical assistance services while KPMG will offer expertise in cross-border taxation, including immigration, social security and HR policy so clients’ can help their expat employees more effectively.
Pacific Prime, a worldwide health insurance broker, has picked up two prestigious awards at the Now International Health ceremony for their achievements in the Asia Pacific region. The firm has won the Top Individual Agency and Top Individual Sales awards and reflect the firm’s strong growth in recent years there.
A new facility for private sponsors of expats in the UAE will enable them to renew their Daman basic health insurance cover. The policies of domestic staff and family members can now be renewed online after a major systems upgrade was carried out. The online service also covers a range professions.
The number of employees and expats in the US who are being offered healthcare from their employer has risen, figures from the US Labour Department reveal. It’s the first increase since 2012 and highlights that employers may be improving their benefits offer as the country’s labour market tightens as the US economy improves.
The government of Bahrain has praised the efforts of those who are working to implement the mandatory health insurance coverage system for the country. The implementation is, apparently, going to plan with insurance companies developing three health packages; one for public sector employees paid for by the government, a second package, which is optional for Bahrainis which would see them paying part of any medical fees and a third package to choose a health insurance product from an approved insurance provider for expats and others in the country.
Allianz Care has teamed-up with an insurance provider based in Mozambique, called ICE Insurance, to offer international health coverage services to locals and expats in the African country.
Now International has unveiled a digital membership card for smartphones. The international private medical insurance provider enables members to download their membership card as part of their digital-only SimpleCare plan.
April UK’s decision to exit the UK’s healthcare market has seen it reach an agreement with AXA PPP to offer their customers a continuation of their healthcare cover with no medical exclusions. No April UK customer will be left without a continuation offer when their current cover is up for renewal. The news does not affect April International clients.
Expats in South Korea who are eligible for help under the state health insurance system can access a help centre in Seoul. The centre will help expats organise their national health insurance membership, change their health insurance and also assist in paying the health cover premiums.
DoctorCall, a UK-based offering, is expanding again after being accredited by the International Assistance Group. DoctorCall will provide a non-emergency service for medical consultations in the UK. Around 10,000 patients a year, of which 40% are expats, use the service every year.
Travellers heading to international destinations have a surprising lack of awareness of endemic diseases, says the biotech firm Valneva. It has carried out research and found that despite the growth in business travel to the Asia-Pacific region, many travellers do not seek preventative healthcare advice before travelling. They found that just 18% of US travellers visited a travel health specialist to discuss their travel plans.
The Association of British Insurers says that travel insurance firms spent nearly £4million every week last year paying for medical treatment for Brits overseas. That’s the highest amount they have shelled out in six years with 159,000 British expats and tourists needing medical treatment. The total bill was £201 million and one in five Brits say they travel overseas without travel insurance. Also, of the 510,000 travel insurance claims, 52% of those were for medical expenses.
Expats and business travellers who are heading to trouble spots overseas may be interested in an offering from Liberty Speciality Markets (LSM) which has developed its political and violence coverage to include a number of new risks to deal with the ‘randomness and frequency of terrorist attacks’. LSM’s head of marine, Mike Burle, said: “A terrorist’s ability to use fear in disrupting business without causing damage is a growing phenomenon – as is the use of firearms to inflict mass casualties.”
Integra Global has unveiled enhanced health plans for customers around the world with policies now covering pre-existing conditions. Along with a simplified underwriting process, all policy holders will now have life cover as part of the health firm’s offering.
Kuwait’s Ministry of Health has announced it has laid off more than 200 expat nurses who are older than 65 and on a second contract. The male and female nurses have been given three months to complete their procedures and then leave the country. The ministry says this is in line with the decision from the Health Minister to terminate expat employees older than 65, except for doctors.