Expat Focus Healthcare Update April 2019
LGBT expat advice after Brunei move
Following the introduction of the death penalty for those in a same-sex relationship in Brunei, one worldwide health and risk management solutions firm is offering advice to employers who may have LGBT employees working in or travelling to the country.Healix International says employers must alert any employee who may be affected by the move because those in the country may not be aware that the law has changed because the media is tightly controlled by the government.
Employers also need to ensure that their travel risk policies are up-to-date to cater for the new law and, if necessary, advise their LGBT employees against travelling to Brunei.
Helix says that for LGBT travellers who keep a low profile then the risks will be low and employers need to put contingency plans in place should an employee be arrested or is at the risk of arrest.
In a statement, Healix added:
"Employers with large workforces in Brunei should also consider the implication of possible international sanctions and make preparations if they are enacted."
Brexit healthcare pledge
The UK government has announced that it is pledging to cover the healthcare costs of British pensioners living in the EU until 31 December 2020 should there be a no-deal Brexit.
Essentially, existing reciprocal healthcare cover arrangements – that is those covered with the S1 certificate – between the UK and the European Union’s member states will remain in place for this period.
The government says that further agreements will be necessary for providing cover after 2020.
Women are more stressed than men
An annual global well-being survey from health insurance firm Cigna has found that workplace pressures, and pressures at home, are leading to growing numbers of women in the workplace feeling more stress than men. The survey found that 79% of women are feeling stressed, compared with 66% of men.
In addition, 10% of women say their stress is unmanageable – this is down to heavy workloads for 17% of respondents, and personal health and financial concerns for 13%.
The report, ‘Well and Beyond‘, also highlights that 57% of respondents believe that telehealth is a convenient way to access medical advice.
Cigna says the research highlights the growing importance of wellness programmes in the workplace.
AXA’s budget-friendly Foundation plan unveiled
A new health insurance plan which is available to expats and travellers has been unveiled by Axa Global Healthcare. The firm says its ‘Foundation’ cover option is available to applicants of all ages and will be ‘budget-friendly’.
There is an overall policy limit of £100,000 ($130,466) per year per person to cover hospital charges, inpatient treatment, MRI scans and cancer treatment. There’s also coverage for emergency evacuation or repatriations.
The firm’s global head of sales, Kevin Melton, said:
"Foundation complements our global health plan offering. We know that extensive cover for most medical eventualities for some members is not always required from the first day and is why we are introducing a budget friendly plan which offers essential cover."
The plan also enables customers to buy optional upgrades, including a virtual doctor service and outpatient treatment.
Details of Oman’s mandatory health cover revealed
Oman’s mandatory health insurance scheme is to be rolled out in phases, with international companies in the country being the first to introduce it for their employees.
The aim is to provide affordable health care to the country’s private sector employees with employers offering basic emergency coverage and options of higher coverage. The coverage will equate to OMR3,000 (£5,979/$7,800) per year.
After international companies have brought in health cover, then smaller companies will be targeted and then the smallest blue-collar employers along with domestic workers will join the mandatory scheme.
A government spokesman told local media that the Ministry of Health is working to make mandatory health coverage a reality and helping firms to ‘limit the financial burden of implementation’.
The scheme’s administrator, the Capital Markets Authority, has also moved to reassure employees that they will not have to pay ‘a single rial’ towards their health insurance coverage.
International health insurance market continues expansion
The global market for international health insurance coverage for expats is worth $16.5 billion (£12.6 billion), a survey has revealed. The findings from Finaccord cover last year with expats paying $12.4 billion in premiums, international students paying $3.3 billion, while ‘affluent residents’ paid $812 million.
The market is now worth more than that for travel insurance and around 97.4 million expats and international students around the world are eligible for international health insurance.
The highest take-up of insurance coverage by expats is for those heading to countries in Africa, Latin America, as well as North America. However, researchers found that just over 10% of all expats who are eligible for buying international health coverage actually do so. A spokesman for the firm said:
"Intermediaries and underwriters of international health cover can find ways to improve product distribution so take-up rates will increase and by 2022 there will be a substantial increase in the market’s value."
Separate research has revealed that the provision of expat healthcare insurance will be dominated by several key players including Cigna, Zurich, Axa and Aviva.
High net worth travellers targeted
A new tool aimed at simplifying travel insurance for high net worth travellers have been unveiled by CEGA, a global risk and claims management provider.
They have teamed up with Millstream Underwriting to offer Antidote which will offer risk profiling to help simplify the medical assessment necessary for travel insurance.
Essentially, high net worth travellers are able to easily self-declare any pre-existing medical condition. A spokeswoman for CEGA said the tie-up should lead the way for enhanced policy renewals by offering straightforward questions and well-supported technology to meet the needs of clients.
Infectious disease tracker to help expats
A new infectious disease tracker has been unveiled to assist employers to protect their overseas workers. Metabiota provides risk analytics and their new epidemic tracker platform enables employers to see where the events could impact industries and their expat workforce. The platform is aimed at corporate risk managers who have to protect expat workers overseas.
A spokesman said:
"Reports and data on epidemics are unstructured and difficult to analyse and now our approach is to collate and structure this data to understand how an epidemic risk is unfolding over time and space."
Measles warning for international travellers
International business travellers are being warned about the rising risk of measles in various countries around the world. Helix International says employers should carry out a detailed risk assessment of a country before an employee is sent abroad – and this should include the risk from measles.
The firm offers international security assistance and they say that the incidence of measles is growing around the world, including in the US, Romania, France and Italy.
A spokesman said:
"While measles in adults is not usually a life-threatening illness, it is debilitating and could be a threat to the old and young and also pregnant women."
Medicare plans in the US
Expats living and working in the US may embrace a plan for Medicare unveiled by Bernie Saunders, the Democratic presidential hopeful. The plan looks set to play a big part in future presidential debates.
Currently, Medicare offers health insurance coverage for American citizens aged over 65, along with those with certain medical conditions or disabilities.
Under Medicare for all, the aim is to expand the scheme into becoming a single-payer health insurance system with the government paying for preventative and essential healthcare needs. The result of the plan being implemented will be the phasing out of private insurance plans in the US so everyone receives insurance coverage from the federal government. The result will also see the end of plans with deductibles and co-payments, along with the end of the Affordable Care Act.
Expats benefit from medical bills move
A new health policy unveiled in Abu Dhabi is aimed at empowering expats by forcing health facilities to issue detailed medical bills to patients.
The Department of Health says the new rule will start from 1 May to compel health providers to detail any treatment provided and any healthcare services received by a patient.
The Department says the move will boost transparency and ensure that patients understand their obligations and rights and also increase awareness of healthcare costs.
Meanwhile, Kuwait’s Health Minister has ordered that a committee be formed to look at imposing compulsory health insurance cover for expats working there.
Expats have seen their health service fees doubling in price since 2017.
The move would see expats and visitors needing compulsory health insurance from January 2020.
Under the proposals, expats living in Kuwait will need to pay KD130 (£327/$428) from next year, then KD150 the year after and KD170 in 2024. From 2026, the levy will rise to KD190.
Demand for expats health insurance is rising
A new report for the world’s health insurance industry highlights that global demand from expats for health insurance is quickly rising. This is down to the number of expats increasing with growing numbers of students and other workers also needing cover, says Research and Markets.
In addition, growing numbers of countries are making health insurance cover compulsory for expats living and working there.
The report writers also highlight that many exclusive health insurance plans designed for expats are obsolete because growing numbers of people are now travelling regularly around the world for their career and lifestyle which means they also need better insurance cover.
Bermuda’s new healthcare scheme stumbles
A move by the government in Bermuda to shift the financing of the island’s healthcare system from a government-backed insurance scheme to one that has private healthcare insurance has run into trouble.
With the prospect of 33,000 employees having to buy private-sector insurance coverage, critics say that currently, the government-backed healthcare scheme pays out more in claims than it collects in premiums. They point out that with private health insurance, the opposite will be the case.
Health insurers are among those expressing concerns over the pooling of government and private funding sources and they say the reforms are being rushed through and further consultation is needed.
In other news…
More than 12,000 claims have been made in Hong Kong using April International’s new app. The tool was launched at the end of 2018 to make the claims process more efficient and quicker. Users can share information and for the quick settlement of bills they send a photograph of their medical invoice worth up to $800 and send it directly to April, using the app for settlement.
Vitality Health has announced the launch of Vitality Essentials for employers in the UK to offer preventative health benefits to their employees. The offer also includes gym discounts, virtual GP consultations and an annual health check.
The Dubai Health Authority has unveiled a scheme to offer free dialysis to 20 patients, including expats, who can’t afford the treatment every month. The ‘Save A Life’ initiative will need applicants to have a valid UAE residency permit – not a tourist visa – and a salary certificate.
A major Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo is not yet, the World Health Organisation says, a global health emergency. It is currently the second largest outbreak in history and shows no signs of being contained. Unlike previous outbreaks, there’s now a vaccine available to protect those most at risk, including doctors and those who come into contact with Ebola patients.
The University of Wolverhampton in the UK has unveiled a new course to help international nurses and other expat healthcare professionals gain the English language qualifications necessary for practising in the country. The online course will help those in health pass the occupational English test.
Healthcare provider MSH International has unveiled a suite of new health insurance offerings, including a cost-efficient international health insurance plan called LivExpat. Other offerings provide cover for business and leisure travellers.
Hong Kong has officially launched its Voluntary Health Insurance scheme with citizens and expats able to buy certified plans from participating health insurance companies.
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