Home » Expat Focus International Healthcare Update July 2017

Expat Focus International Healthcare Update July 2017

British expats will keep health benefits

The UK government has set out to reassure around 1.2 million British expats living in the European Union that they will try to ensure they will retain their access to free healthcare in the countries where they now live after Brexit.

In addition, the government says it will look to ‘uprate’ the state pension and other benefits – essentially, the government says the pensions will not be frozen as they are for some Brits in other countries.The announcement is part of the Brexit negotiations and the UK government has laid out its ambitions for its citizens in the EU with a statement.

Along with working to ensure British expats retain their healthcare benefits, the government says it will treat EU citizens living and working in the UK to the same.

For those who are interested, the UK government's statement on the future of British expats in the EU can be read on their website.

Expat fears over data breach

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Expats who are members of BUPA Global may be alarmed to hear that an employee of the insurer has inappropriately copied and then removed information that relates to more than 547,000 members with international health insurance plans.

The company says the data breach has seen their customer names, nationalities, some contact information as well as their dates of birth being taken.

However, there has been no medical or financial data taken, BUPA said in a statement.

The firm also points out that customers of its UK health insurance business have not been affected by the data breach and most the 1.4 million international health insurance members of BUPA Global are unaffected too.

A spokesman for BUPA Global said: “We are contacting clients who have been affected to advise and apologise to them as we believe that information may be used by other parties.”

Expats 'susceptible to mental health issues'

A report published by health insurer Aetna International highlights that expats around the world are more susceptible to mental health issues because they lack a support network.

The findings also reveal that while expats are open to the challenges and risks when heading overseas, few take the steps to address potential health issues beforehand. Expats are susceptible to depression as the prevalent condition, researchers say, which is followed closely by anxiety.

The problems are also an issue for employers and Aetna says businesses and expats should do more in being pre-emptive to combat mental health problems.

The firm has looked at mental health claims between 2014 and 2016 and found the biggest increase was from expats in Europe, with claims rising by 33%, followed by claims rising by 28% in the Middle East and Africa and in the Americas by 26%. For those expats living in Southeast Asia, mental health insurance claims rose by 19%.

A spokesman for Aetna International said: “We believe employers should take a more preventative approach by introducing employee assistance programmes which will help tackle mental health issues when they arise.”

Help to communicate with expat employees in emergencies

Employers worried about communicating with their expat employees when they are travelling or working overseas can now do so in just minutes thanks to Concur Locate and Active Monitoring.

With growing geopolitical uncertainty, businesses are increasingly aware of the steps they will need to take to ensure the safety of their overseas workers. The first issue is knowing where their employees are located at all times.

The new offering from Concur is the first integrated risk management solution, the firm says, which utilises data from extensive travel information as well as itineraries and supplier invoices. The offering will help with an employer’s duty of care and help deliver a critical need.

Travel managers rely on their employees to contact them

A report from GBTA Foundation reveals that three in ten travel managers will rely on their employees to contact them in times of uncertainty in a crisis. However, 58% of travellers and expats said they would contact their supervisor rather than a travel manager should they need assistance or support in an emergency.

A spokesman for Concur said: “From terrorist attacks to natural disasters, it’s imperative that the business is able to identify and locate employees quickly if a crisis occurs to determine who may need assisting.”

The report follows publication of an analysis by Airmic which revealed that organisations are not doing enough to help ensure that their travel risk strategies are suitable.

The organisation has now published a guide on travel risk management since the growth in business travel has rocketed by 25% over the last 10 years. They say that employers sending employees overseas need to understand high and extreme risk regions and how a low risk destination can quickly become high risk one in just a few hours.

New international health plans aimed at small companies

AXA has unveiled international health plans aimed at firms with between 75 and 150 employees working overseas.

The new offering also delivers a profit share agreement with the new proposition sitting between AXA’s plans aimed at one or more employees, and a bespoke solution for those employers looking for health insurance for more than 150 employees.

With their new offering, AXA says firms can tailor the health scheme to suit their specific employee needs and can lower and increase allowances for key benefits and the levels of cover.

A spokesman for AXA said: “The change will provide firms with more transparency and less risk and these developments help support our customers who are purchasing employee healthcare at a sustainable price.”

The new health plans also enable access to a member portal for queries and claims as well as a second medical opinion service along with a 24/7 medical telephone helpline. Medical repatriations and evacuation are offered as standard.

Empire Life reveals expat package

Canada’s Empire Life insurance company has revealed it is to introduce a new expat benefit for those clients with employees working outside of the country.

The firm’s international business travel medical plan will provide urgent and emergency medical care for expat employees and their dependents in other countries. Empire Life is also to launch its Voyageur Global Benefits for Canadian expats working overseas.

Chatbots will help expats with health advice

A new chatbot that will use artificial intelligence to help give customers information and advice on their health policies has been unveiled by Now Health International. The international private medical insurance provider says is new chatbot can be accessed via the firm’s Facebook Messenger function.

Now the insurer’s members and potential customers can use it to seek advice to find a medical provider, submit a claim or get a quote. The chatbot uses artificial intelligence to respond to phrases and keywords that are typed by the user to provide the answers automatically.

Expats charged for hospital visits

There is confusion in Kuwait about why some expats are being asked to pay for all of their hospital visits when this is meant to be against current regulations. Media outlets there say some hospitals have implemented a government decision for fees to be paid by expats when visiting the hospital’s outpatient clinics.

It was understood previously that expats would only pay for their initial consultation fee and no additional fees would then be necessary for subsequent visit if they were for the same health issue. However, it appears that some hospitals are charging KD2 (£5/$6.61) for the initial consultation and for subsequent visits as well – regardless of whether a prescription has been issued.

Meanwhile, the cost of health care and medical services provided by Kuwait for the parents of expats has led to an annual KD 1,700 (£4,310/$5,617) fee being introduced. If expats want their parents to live in the country, they must pay a KD 850 fee for each parent. For parents who are younger than 65, the medical insurance will be KD 300.

It also appears that Kuwait is to double the price of expat medical services from KD 5 to KD 10 though this has to be ratified by the government.

In other healthcare news…

Oman has announced that the time limit for expats who work for the government who receive paid sick leave has been lifted. Previously, the limit was four months of paid sick leave.

Fears over the future of pharmacies in Saudi Arabia have been raised with the government’s move for Saudization which will see expats leaving government employment in the kingdom being replaced with Saudi citizens. Critics say there might be issues since 75% of all pharmacists there are expats.

The new Jaber Hospital in Kuwait is nearly ready and will be handed over to the government in the coming months to help growing demand from citizens and expats alike. Meanwhile, the country’s Ministry of Health has suspended the recruitment of expat nurses to work in medical centres and public hospitals – except those expats who have Kuwaiti nursing certificates.

One of the health issues of expats working overseas is a culture of working long hours and now a survey reveals this could be bad for the heart. The findings from University College London reveal that the risk of an expat developing an irregular heartbeat increases by 40% – and this issue could increase their chance of having a stroke five-fold.

The cost of health insurance has doubled in a decade, according to the UK’s Office for National Statistics. They say that since 2006, health bills have rocketed by 102% while over the same period private school fees grew by 160% but food and drink costs grew by 37%.

Expats with children in Romania will be contacted by the government to ensure they have been vaccinated against measles to help combat an outbreak in the country. The epidemic has claimed the lives of 31 people so far and poses the highest risk to unvaccinated young children.

US firm Teladoc looks set to buy Best Doctors which provides consultation services and medical second opinions for expats around the world with the new set-up utilising a global network of more than 50,000 medical experts.

Employers interested in where the greatest threat to global health may be and where there are risks to an expat’s health while overseas will be interested in a study published in Nature. The EcoHealth Alliance has put together a map about where these risks are, with South America offering the greatest risk.

A survey of employees in the UK found 89% preferred health and medical insurance rather than gym memberships and childcare vouchers. The survey by Epoq reveals that people are looking to their employers for benefits to help protect and educate them about their future well-being.

Cigna has unveiled its new Wellbeing App which is available to customers in North America and delivers resources and tools to help clients with their wellness aims. Features include a biometric tracking dashboard and a health library of recipes and articles. The insurer has also revealed ambitious plans to expand in the Middle East to meet expat needs after buying Zurich Insurance Middle East.

A new health and dental clinic featuring the latest clinical technology has been unveiled by BUPA in central London. With three dental surgeries and 10 consultation rooms, the new clinic will provide treatments and services to the firm’s clients.

The Dubai Health Authority has revealed there will be 12 new private hospitals being opened in Dubai by 2020 to bring the total number to 38 – all of them are aimed mainly at expats living there.

BUPA says that the number of employees being treated for stress and anxiety has doubled over the last decade. The firm says that 19,715 members were treated last year and 44% of workers questioned for a report say that the world has become more ‘complex and stressful over the last 10 years’.

Allianz Global has revealed that it has opened a new office in South Korea to help meet global corporate client needs. The new branch means that Allianz is now operating with teams in 31 countries.

Expats living and working in Switzerland will find that their medical insurance premiums could rise by 5% in 2018 because of rocketing health care costs. The announcement from the country’s industry body Santesuisse says insurers are seeing prices rise excessively, particularly for outpatient services.

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