Home » Expat Focus International Healthcare Update July 2019

Expat Focus International Healthcare Update July 2019

More expats accessing mental health help

Growing numbers of expats are accessing mental health support with preventative healthcare increasingly being one of the benefits they need the most, one organisation reveals.

The Health Insurance Group (HIG) says the top three benefits being used by expats working overseas are psychiatric care, wellness and diagnostic procedures/MRI and testing.The firm says this is a big change from those benefits which treat a condition to expats increasingly embracing preventative healthcare to help detect health conditions earlier. However, this shift by overseas employees also needs to be supported by their employers.

Behaviours and attitudes are changing around the world which must be reflected in an expat’s benefits package when they head overseas, the firm says.

The head of international for HIG, Sarah Dennis, said:

"Support for mental well-being and diagnostic procedures are being enhanced and with people being supported earlier, the better the chances of their recovery are."

Expats increasingly use virtual health offerings

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Most expats say they are likely to use virtual health services when necessary, with younger employees tending to do so more than older expats.

A survey by Aetna International found that 78% of expats around the world say they would use virtual health services. Researchers questioned more than 2,000 expats and found that the expats most likely to use a virtual health service are in Singapore, India and the UAE.

The findings also highlight that those aged between 30 and 49 years old are more likely to use the facility than expats who are over 50. Also, expats with children are more likely to use virtual health services.

Aetna’s president, Richard di Benedetto, said:

"You may need to travel quite some way in some locations to see a family doctor but this isn't the case with virtual healthcare services."

He added that the services are also proving useful for those expats who may not be familiar with their new environment.

The world's most dangerous travel destinations

Expats and their employers may be interested in a new report published by security system firm Alarms.org on the world’s most dangerous travel destinations.

The publication, ‘The Most Dangerous Countries for Travelling 2019’, has rated those countries which are dangerousness to visit and may have unstable political conditions, security problems, medical assistance quality issues as well as infrastructure and environmental factors.

The findings reveal that 25 of the world’s top 30 most dangerous destinations are in sub-Saharan Africa and the Near East. The most dangerous countries are Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Central African Republic. Iraq is in fourth place, while the high murder rate in El Salvador places it in fifth place, with Egypt in 19th position and India at number 24.

The safest countries analysed are Norway, Luxembourg and Switzerland.

The firm says that business travellers and expats need to be educated on travelling risks and have the relevant travel and health insurance policies.

Maxus unveils health insurance solutions for expats

A suite of employee benefits aimed at the globally mobile workforce has been unveiled by the Maxis global benefits network. The international employee benefits outfit is a joint-venture between Axa and MetLife and offers clients a way to offer additional benefits in their current offering.

The suite includes globally portable medical and dental provision as well as accidental and life cover. There’s also a 24/7 health information helpline, personal case management services and international claims expertise.

Maxis is also offering evacuation and repatriations help and well-being programmes.

The firm’s chief executive, Mauro Dugulin, said:

"The solutions will help national firms simplify and deliver what can be complex global benefits programmes. There is growing demand for adaptable benefits as firms deploying want to maximise their ability to drive market growth, complete mergers and acquisitions and fill skill gaps."

Healthcare premiums reach all-time high

Global healthcare insurance premiums reached an all-time high last year, with $5 trillion being spent, a study from Swiss Re Institute reveals.

The premiums are equivalent to 6% of the world’s gross domestic product and in a report the researchers say the largest market is still the US, followed by China and Japan.

However, there is an ongoing shift with demand heading east and by 2029, 42% of worldwide insurance premiums will be in the Asia-Pacific region. China’s share of health insurance will grow to 20% of the total.

Expats need travel insurance

Expats and travellers heading to Thailand will need to appreciate that compulsory travel insurance will be in force later this year. Media there are reporting that travellers will need a special policy from immigration offices in airports.

The policy will cost around 52p or 20 baht for 30 days cover with up to 1 million baht (£26,000/$32,365) provided in death cover. Meanwhile, the French Pacific island territory of New Caledonia is the world’s first destination to potentially ban a visitor who is unable to prove they have adequate medical and repatriations cover before they can enter the country.

Expats need health insurance for Japan

The Japanese government is urging foreign tourists and expats heading to the country to have travel insurance as growing numbers of travellers arrive without insurance and are leaving behind unpaid treatment bills. This situation is leading to hospitals in Japan coming under financial strain.

The Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry says 27% of travellers arriving in the country have no insurance policy or have money to pay for any medical expenses should they fall ill.

Korea also warns of insurance need

Meanwhile, the government of South Korea is warning all long-term expats living in the country that they now must have national health insurance cover.

The policies are required for those who have lived in the country for more than six months, while foreign students are exempt from the new rules until March 2021. The minimum monthly health insurance premium for expats is 113,050 won (£77/$96).

Healthcare costs will continue rising

Healthcare costs around the world are still outpacing general inflation, according to a survey by Mercer Marsh Benefits.

Their Medical Trends Around the World findings highlight that employer health costs grew by 9.7% last year. The firm is now predicting a similar rise for this year and even higher rises for 2020.

The report states that employers will have to ‘plan smartly’ to give expat employees access to quality health care.

The research also highlights some of the risks facing expats on a regional level and in Latin America, dietary risk is considered to be a major health risk factor influencing medical costs.

In Europe, it’s mental or emotional risks and for the Middle East and Africa it is occupational risks. In Asia, it is environmental risks which is mainly down to the high pollution levels in major cities.

A spokeswoman for the firm said:

"Rising medical costs show no signs of abating and our research shows that most insurers globally believe that 2020 medical inflation will increase."

She added that as costs rise, employers need to plan to deliver better outcomes and review plans on both cost and employee engagement purposes.

In other news…

Thousands of expat health workers have been replaced in Oman with 3,000 losing their jobs in 2018, it has been revealed. The Ministry of Health says that 71% of its staff are now Omanis since the government introduced a ban on employing expats there in early 2018. The ban has been extended several times since then to include other professions and industries.

Expats and business travellers should tell their health and travel insurance providers about any health conditions – and this has been highlighted by a comparison site, Medical Travel Compared. They say that any business or expat traveller who has suffered with a broken bone in the last two years and needed hospital treatment may not have valid insurance cover if they don’t reveal the fact. The site says 79% of travellers do not identify correctly what they need to disclose when buying travel insurance.

A new platform that offers US customers the opportunity of accessing treatment for dental and medical care around the world is expanding its services to 35 countries. The LA-based Doctours aims to connect patients wanting affordable and quality health care around the globe with highly qualified doctors. The aim is to meet the growing demand of those who want to avoid the cost of healthcare in the US and want to travel for treatment.

Expats who are Bupa ActiveQuote customers can now opt for additional mental health cover which includes conditions that are usually excluded by other providers. The conditions that help can be accessed for include alcohol and drugs addiction as well as anorexia.

The employee digital benefits platform League has revealed a new offering so expats can engage with lifestyle, benefit and health programmes. Their HBX offering enables clients to manage their health and well-being and also boost the understanding of benefits they are entitled to.

A new microwebsite and social media offering will help ensure students travelling around the world appreciate safety considerations. The offering from AIG Travel delivers practical advice and tips for those students heading overseas. The firm says that between 2016 and 2017, more than 330,000 US students headed overseas for their studies.
The Avivo Group, which operates in the GCC region, has revealed that it is moving from general healthcare service provision and will offer specialised care for complex medical conditions to expats and residents in the region.

Medigo, a worldwide healthcare provider, has unveiled two new products for the UK market: global cover and global care. The first is a treatment-based insurance product for expats needing major treatment overseas, including heart surgery, cancer treatment and neurosurgery. The global care offering provides second medical opinions and medical concierge for those patients who self-pay with personal support logistics being supplied in 35 countries.

International health insurance plans provider, Integra Global, has unveiled a new telehealth offering for individual and corporate plans in the UAE. It’s the first telemedicine provider that has been licensed by the Dubai Health Authority and offers a video consultation with an accredited doctor.

Expats in Dubai can access dental care using a new hybrid booking system unveiled by the Dubai Health Authority. Along with bookings, it’s possible to organise a walk-in appointment with dentists as the new platform aims to reduce waiting times to 20 minutes rather than waiting for several hours. The new system is in operation now.

Kuwait’s health ministry has revealed that it is planning to raise maternity and birth charges in its public hospitals with no timeframe for the implementation being discussed. The announcement comes after MPs criticised expats for blocking Kuwait’s public hospitals, particularly creating overcrowding in the country’s maternity hospitals.

Australia’s private health insurance system has been criticised in a government report as being ‘unfair and muddled’. One of the big issues is a growing number of healthy and young people are dropping their insurance coverage, while those aged over 65 are increasing their insurance. The report states that the government now needs to decide between investing more money or developing the public health system before private health insurance enters a ‘death spiral’.

Aviva has revealed that it is introducing mental health cover for clients with online addictions. The healthcare provider says its ‘Mental Health Pathways Plus’ is an option for large corporate employers to support all addictions, including social media, gaming and gambling. There’s also support for alcohol and drug dependency.

Filipino expats are being warned that their health insurance coverage with PhilHealth, the state-owned provider, will see premiums rocketing by 186% from this year. For a housemaid working overseas and earning $400 a month, the premiums will cost $242 per year from 2024.

Employers with expat employees who want to know more about telemedicine, the increasingly popular way of accessing health advice and diagnosis, may be interested in a new guide published by First Stop Health. The guide helps employers implement a virtual care solution in a bid to beat increasing health-care costs. The Buyer's Guide to Telemedicine also offers advice on choosing the best telemedicine solution and helping employees understand its benefits.

Unum, an employee benefits provider, has revealed that more people are using its services to return to work after dealing with mental health issues than for any other condition. The firm says 39% of all cases they dealt with over the past year related to mental health issues including anxiety and stress. They have now created a mental health pathway that supports employers to maintain mental health in their workplaces and offer specific intervention to help employees.

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