Home » Expat Focus International Healthcare Update June 2023

Expat Focus International Healthcare Update June 2023

‘Hakeem’ to be Put in Place in Bahrain From September

The Arabic kingdom of Bahrain is launching a new health insurance scheme for expats from September. Hakeem, which means ‘wise,’ will be replacing the previous Private Co-operative Health Insurance Programme. The move was announced recently at the National Health Regulatory Authority (NHRA) Conference and Exhibition.

The scheme is initially being piloted and it is aimed at being fully in place by the end of 2024. Hakeem is divided into two categories: mandatory and optional insurance, and will be funded by employers. It is intended to cover emergency and primary care along with secondary care, but won’t cover maternity care or cosmetic procedures. If you register for the optional scheme, however, you can plug any coverage gaps with your own private policy. Basically, this initiative is aiming at freeing up healthcare in state hospitals for Bahraini citizens. 

2023 Health on Demand Report

Mercer Marsh Benefits has released its 2023 Health on Demand Report, surveying 17,500 employees in 16 markets. Their findings have led them to focus on five categories that employees have deemed to be most important:

  • supporting healthcare for employees
  • providing healthcare for employees
  • accessing well-being in the workplace
  • using workplace stress statistics as an investment opportunity
  • making well-being in the workplace affordable

The survey was conducted in the following regions:

  • Asia: China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Singapore 
  • Europe: Italy, Netherlands, Spain, UK 
  • Latin America: Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Panama
  • Middle East: UAE
  • North America: Canada and US 

Nearly half of respondents (47%) reported that they feel stressed in everyday life. The survey also queried which factors employees thought put them most at risk for burnout at their workplace, and these were:

  • work pressures (54%)
  • poor leadership (39%)
  • a toxic workplace culture (37%)

58% of employees reported that they did not feel able to speak their mind in their workplace, with a fear of the consequences if they did so leading to additional stress. However, more positively, 70% of respondents told the survey that they felt that their employer would support them in times of an emergency (such as another pandemic, for instance). Being able to afford healthcare was an additional concern, with women and single mothers being the least confident that they would be able to fund this if necessary. Mercer point out that this is an area in which employers are in a ‘unique and critical position’ to address these gaps in healthcare provision, primarily by registering employees with a private health insurance provider or a national scheme if one is in place. 

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One of the clearest findings of the survey, which should come as no surprise, is that contentment in the workplace is related to the number of benefits to which employees are entitled. The survey states:

“…employees who receive 10 or more benefits are more likely to believe their employer cares about their health and well-being, are less likely to move to a different employer, and are more confident that they can afford the healthcare their family needs.”

Anne Laverock, Mercer Marsh Benefits’ Global Advice and Solutions Leader, is quoted in the survey as follows:

“Employees who feel cared for by their employer are more likely to report organizational leadership that is committed to a healthy culture. Work-related commitments such as embedding well-being in job design and taking action on issues such as living wages and social justice are a key part of this. It also means giving employees confidence that they can afford the healthcare that they and their families need and having access to benefits that are relevant to them.”

These findings are significant in indicating that a values-led workplace is not only a happier one, but also likely to increase productivity. 

ResearchAndMarkets.com Bring Out International Health Insurance Market Report 2023

The International Health Insurance Market Report 2023 is now out, focusing strongly on private health insurance as a growing market sector. The report is based on 177 countries, 83 insurance companies, and 47 insurance brokers, agents and MGAs/MGUs.

The report notes that employers are moving away from traditional expat models to decentralised models incorporating more virtual work and in-market hiring. Moreover, private healthcare is opening up to new markets, including digital nomads, temporary foreign workers, cross-border workers, local employees, and contract workers as well as international students (who are often not covered by state healthcare). Long term assignments for expats are now back at pre-2020 levels, but as we have reported before, the phenomenon of the digital nomad is on the rise and this is reflected in the private health insurance market, as are hybrid workers. The Covid pandemic has changed the face of the employment market across the world and health insurers are keeping up with these shifts in employment patterns. The report also looks as diaspora cover for employees’ relatives, for instance, and at remote treatment options. 

Public Healthcare in Africa Suffers from Brain Drain

The British press reported in early June on a healthcare crisis in Ghana caused by nurses and other medical professionals migrating to the UK and USA, due to increased salaries. Some 66,000 of the 750,000 personnel working in UK hospitals are from other countries. 

In Francophone Africa, they are heading for Paris or Montreal. Low levels of pay and poor working conditions lead to industrial action (for example, in Nigeria, where strikes among medical professionals are common). 

However, this phenomenon, although concerning, is not entirely negative. There is evidence that healthcare professionals who have emigrated contribute both money and expertise to their home nations, sometimes returning to bring their experience into African hospitals and rural treatment centres. For instance, in May 2023, the Ministry of Immigration and Egyptian Expats Affairs signed an agreement for joint cooperation with the “Egypt Without Disease” health care institution, aiming to bring treatment and free medical awareness to deprived areas and specifically drawing on the experience of Egyptian expat doctors.