Expat Focus Healthcare Update 06 January 2017
Employers urged to do more for emergencies
Employers could do more for expat employees than simply buying international private medical insurance because they are not only affecting productivity of the work assignment but also the safety of their staff.That’s the opinion of consultancy Jelf International, who say that employers have a duty of care to their employees regardless of where they are working and they could manage emergency situations better.
Jelf says employers should undertake thorough pre-planning including a location risk assessment and a pre-assignment health screening, particularly if the expat has a pre-existing medical condition.
Head office staff should also have prearranged contact times, and should one be missed then an alarm could be raised.
Expats wanting healthcare benefits
A survey has revealed that expats can expect the best healthcare benefits from employers in the Middle East, particularly the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
Those are the findings from the HSBC expat survey, which says that expats can also look forward to an excellent work life-balance in Sweden.
The best job security is with employers in Germany and the best wages are being paid in Switzerland, which is also the most expensive country for expats to live in.
Health cover deadline causes problems
Insurance offices in Dubai were flooded with last-minute health insurance requests from customers desperate to beat the country’s new health cover deadline.
Expats in Dubai must buy health insurance for their spouse as as well as children and any domestic staff by the December deadline.
Failure to comply will see the sponsors of dependents facing fines of up to Dh500 (£111/$136) per month.
In addition to the fine, expats will find they will not be granted or have their current visa renewed without having valid health insurance cover.
The healthcare body for the emirate said that 98% of residents in Dubai – that’s more than four million people – in the days before the deadline had managed to meet the required health insurance rules.
However, there are still around 80,000 people in Dubai without healthcare cover.
Meanwhile, Dubai’s Health Authority has confirmed that it is taking a close interest in the health insurance policies that are issued by insurance companies.
A spokesman said the DHA is monitoring all insurance companies and their procedures to detect whether there are any violations and to ensure that beneficiaries receive their full rights.
The Department says there is no opportunity for expats to present false proof of insurance to trick the new system.
In addition, the authority has also revealed it is receiving complaints from individuals about their health insurance under the new scheme and these are currently under investigation.
The best places for expats to retire to
A survey of the world’s best places for expats to retire to in 2017 has been revealed by International Living.
Researchers have put together a top 10 list of destinations based on healthcare, climate, expat benefits and cost of living.
In the top spot is Mexico, a country that is already very popular with US expat retirees who enjoy a low cost of living and excellent healthcare facilities, followed by Panama, Ecuador and Costa Rica.
Colombia is in fifth place followed by Malaysia, Spain, Nicaragua, Portugal and Malta.
A million expats in Saudi do not have health insurance
It has been reported that nearly one million expats living and working in Saudi Arabia do not have any medical insurance.
Figures released in the kingdom reveal that of the country’s 10.4 million expat workers, just 7.6 million have any medical insurance cover.
However, 1.93 million of those are house helps such as drivers and maids, and they can be treated in government hospitals by simply showing their residence permits.
Of the remainder, around 870,000 expats do not have medical insurance which, says the government, violates the terms of their labour and residency laws.
The government now says that no residence permits, or iqamas, will be renewed or issued without proof of medical insurance for an expat employee or for their dependents.
The country’s health authority says it is also aware of a growing problem of expats providing fake medical insurance documents for the renewal of their residence permit.
Health insurer tackles expat 'burnout epidemic'
Fears of an expat burnout epidemic around the world has led one health insurance firm to team up with a productivity and well-being company to reduce stress among workers.
Discovery, which is the South African parent company of Vitality, is working with Thrive Global to produce a stress toolkit which will be available to the insurer’s four million members in 14 countries around the world.
A spokesman for Discovery said: “By making people healthier and affecting behaviour we generate savings and the savings are then passed onto our members as incentives for doing what makes them healthier. This is continuing the shared value cycle at the core of our business.”
A spokeswoman for Thrive Global said many expats believe that burning out is the price to pay for achieving success but this is a ‘misconception’.
She added: “Instead, we know that by prioritising well-being our creativity, productivity and decision-making will improve dramatically.”
Among the countries to have the toolkit made available via a network of insurance partners are for those customers in the US, UK, Germany and France as well as Japan, Singapore, Australia and Canada.
Expats in Bahrain face medical check-ups
The government in Bahrain is proposing that all expats take mandatory medical check-ups in a bid to boost the healthcare services provided for citizens.
The regular private check-ups will be taken as a condition of expats renewing their residency permit.
Currently, only expats working in some sectors of the country’s economy have to take regular check-ups but the new law will see this condition extended to all expats.
The government has also announced that healthcare reforms will see an expat’s health insurance bill being met by employers, while citizens will have their healthcare needs taken care of with the country’s national health insurance scheme.
Biggest health risks when moving overseas
A survey has revealed the dangers that expats and travellers face when overseas; in first place is road accidents.
In second place is infections, with 40% of travellers contracting either bowel or respiratory infections during a trip.
In third place are sexually transmitted diseases and in fourth place is jetlag, which affects business travellers working towards deadlines and appointments.
In fifth place is stress, with expats and travellers struggling with new environments and experiences as well as changing time zones.
Australia to simplify health insurance
The Australian government is looking to simplify health insurance schemes in the country by introducing categories of gold, silver and bronze.
The idea is to help people find better deals for the mandatory health insurance cover which, the government says, health insurance providers are making more difficult for people to understand.
The changes should come about before premiums increase in April and the process should also boost transparency for out-of-pocket expenses.
The move follows repeated concerns from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission about how complicated the country’s healthcare industry is.
Around 47% of people in Australia have private health insurance cover but many of those have said they are scaling back their provision because of increasing premiums.
Health insurance costs rise in Ireland
The Irish government has revealed that health insurance costs will keep rising through 2017 despite a number of rises last year.
The result could see some families being hit with increases of €500.
Health insurance providers say their costs are increasing because the government is charging for members accessing public hospitals and there’s a tax on all policies sold.
Expats healthcare services limited in Oman
Expats who live in Oman and work for the government are now restricted on receiving free medical treatment for some conditions.
The move follows cuts to the healthcare budget by the government with employees of other state-run organisations also falling victim to the budget cuts.
Expats should also prepare themselves since news reports highlight that more budget cuts could be in the pipeline, with expats likely to suffer with reductions in social service budgets.
Now expats who work for the government cannot receive free surgery for a list of 18 conditions, including cardiac surgery, and they can no longer receive free medication for six ailments, including arthritis.
Oman says that the drop in the price of oil means it has no choice but to reduce budgets though they are, currently, promising that salaries for expats in the public sector will be unchanged.
Health insurance firm reveals first global policy
AXA has announced its first global policy which covers parental leave and support.
The firm says that parents will receive 16 weeks fully paid leave while a co-parent will receive four weeks.
The policy will apply in all AXA territories which is currently 64 countries.
In addition, the firm says it acknowledges the changing dynamics of family life and wants to ensure an inclusive and diverse working environment so the policy covers same-sex couples, single parents as well as adoptive couples.
Health insurance fee hike rejected in Kuwait
Expats and Kuwaiti citizens have rejected a proposed hike in their health insurance fees saying the proposal could lead to many people leaving the country.
The government had proposed to hike insurance fees to KD130, from the current KD50, but the owners of private schools, supermarkets and investment buildings were among those who said they would be hurt economically if expats left because of the rising cost of living.
Kuwaitis say they need expat families in the country to help stimulate the economy because they invest and spend money there while single expats tend to send most of their money home.
In addition, one MP says that the current health insurance fees are very high for expats and creates a burden for many in the workforce.
News outlets in Kuwait also report that such a hefty rise in health insurance fees would bring the country into conflict with human rights and there had been a lack of consultation before the rise could be implemented.
In other healthcare news…
The Dubai Statistics Centre says that a baby is born every 3.5 hours in the emirate, most of them to expats. In 2016 7,728 Emiratis had births compared with 22,755 expats.
Expats living in the Netherlands who sign up with the country’s basic health insurance plan will find that a new treatment for breast cancer has been added to the package, the government has announced. Health insurance is mandatory in the country.
America’s Social Security administration has announced that greater numbers of US citizens are heading overseas for their retirement – the number grew by 17% in the years between 2010 and 2015 and this is set to grow as more baby boomers approach retirement. The administration says that 400,000 US expat retirees now live overseas, with the most popular countries being Mexico, Canada, Japan, the UK and Germany.
Bupa has acquired health insurer Care Plus with the Brazilian-based firm serving 400 companies with more than 100,000 members in the country. Bupa says its move will help Brazilian customers access a wide range of health insurance providers and healthcare products.
A new law has come into effect in France which makes all citizens of the country organ donors unless they opt out by signing a register.
Expats living and working in Ghana can access a new premium health insurance scheme run by C4C Homeopathic which will provide cover in the regional capitals. The firm says the cost is within reach of ‘ordinary people’ and takes care of all medical bills including consultations, lab and physiotherapy services.
Over the coming few years the Saudi Arabian government says it will increasingly privatise healthcare provision in the country which will see the sector grow from 25% in 2015 to 35% over the next three years. The number of licensed medical facilities will also grow to 100 from the current 40 with private medical insurance helping to deliver the plans.
Health tourists to the UK racked up more than £30 million in unpaid bills last year. The figures come from a Freedom of Information request of 104 hospital trusts which reveal that the worst hit trusts are owed £5 million. However, experts say the figures could be much worse since the debts are for those patients who have been handed an invoice and many hospital staff do not realise many patients are not UK taxpayers.
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