Expat Focus International Healthcare Update 03 February 2017
Health insurance premiums could rocket by 60%
Expats living and working in Switzerland are being warned that the price for their health insurance premiums could double over the next 13 years.
The warning comes from a report published by EY Switzerland, a business organisation, which says that the premiums could become unaffordable for many Swiss people.While Switzerland is renowned for offering an excellent level of health care, it’s also one of the most expensive; the country spends around 11% of its gross domestic product on healthcare.
But healthcare costs have doubled over the last 25 years and, according to the report, they could rise again by 60% by 2030.
This increase will hit households hard with a basic monthly insurance premium rising from an average of CHF396 (£317/$400) per person to more than CHF800 (£641/$808).
However, the big issue for expats and citizens alike is that in 2014 the average expenditure on health insurance for every household’s monthly income was 6% but this looks set to rise to 11% over the next 13 years.
Now experts are predicting a financial collapse for the basic insurance system unless drastic action is taken quickly.
Expats in the Americas have new all in one service
A new healthcare package for expats in the Americas has been unveiled, aimed at helping organisations provide their travelling executives deal with travel and health risk management.
The Global Risk Management programme has been unveiled by health insurance firm International SOS and security provider Control Risks to deliver industry-leading security and medical services to employers.
The chief executive of International SOS in the Americas, Grant Jeffery, said: “We have developed a programme to help organisations deal with their duty of care for their international assignees and business travellers.
“Travel and health safety threats come in a range of guises and can be complex which requires the understanding, support and response from range of security and health risk related services.”
He added that a growing number of employers are looking for an effective and simple method that will help them effectively manage their mobile workforce should an unexpected event occur – whether that is a medical or security related problem.
Calculator helps determine whether health insurance is worthwhile
For Australians and expats who are living and working in Australia there is a new online calculator that will help them decide whether private health insurance cover is worth the expense.
The calculator has been launched by Choice, a consumer group, in response to health insurance premiums increasing in Australia by nearly 50% since 2009.
A spokesman for the group said young people are particularly in need of the facility since they tend to be sold health insurance policies they do not need.
Patients demand upfront healthcare costs
The provision of upfront healthcare costs would boost the reputation of health insurance providers, say 74% of health insurance users.
The survey from TransUnion Healthcare in the US also reveals that 57% of patients would return to their healthcare provider if they gave a billing estimate at the point of use.
However, 43% of those who used the health services in the US said they found it difficult to get information about any of the costs they were going to incur.
One of the providers that has brought in accurate and understandable estimates is Banner Health which responded to moves from TransUnion to make billing more transparent.
Expats in France will need to wait for treatment
Marine Le Pen, the National Front leader in France, has declared that foreigners living in the country must pay their own healthcare costs for the first two years of living there.
The move would see legal foreign immigrants, including expats, not being reimbursed for their health costs by the state. Expats who opt for private healthcare insurance in France would not be affected should Ms Le Pen be elected to President this year.
The move comes despite foreigners having to pay their taxes and social charges to the French state while they live and work in the country, just as French citizens do, but they would not be able to claim their treatment fees back.
When announcing the move, Ms Le Pen said that when French expats move overseas, particularly to Germany, the US and Australia, the taxpayers there do not pay their healthcare costs.
However, legal experts say that the planned policy may run into legal trouble since a 1990 ruling by the country’s Constitutional Council said that foreigners who are paying their taxes and social charges must be treated on equal terms with French people.
Expats in Bahrain pay more for healthcare
Expats living and working in Bahrain’s private sector have been told that the cost for treatment at public health centres and hospitals has now increased to BD7 (£15/$19) from BD3 (£6/$8).
The fees cover dental and doctors’ consultancies and expats must also now buy medicines from a private pharmacy and not state-run ones.
The government says that expats working in the public sector, and their dependents, will not be affected by the hike in fees.
One organisation is warning that the increase may force low-paid expats to find medical treatment ‘from alternative sources’.
The Migrant Workers Protection Society says that with the new fees and a demand that expats use private pharmacies may mean they may end up paying, in reality, between BD20 (£42/$53) and BD30 (£63/$80) for a consultation and treatment.
Expats tell of healthcare fears
British expats who live around Europe have told a UK Parliamentary group of their fears for their healthcare when the UK leaves the European Union.
Representatives from expats in France, Italy, Spain, Poland and Belgium expressed their concerns to the Brexit Select Committee.
MPs were told that British expats are already suffering with the fall in the pound’s value against leading currencies and many cannot afford the full cost of healthcare should a reciprocal agreement not be reached between the UK and the countries where the expats now live.
MPs were also told that many expats have moved to Spain because they enjoyed a lower cost of living and it was cheap to buy themselves a property.
Another representative told MPs that the UK could see hundreds of thousands of expats returning home to deal with their healthcare issues rather than waiting for an agreement to be made.
Meanwhile, it’s been revealed that the healthcare bill for British expat pensioners in the EU costs the NHS £674 million every year.
The figures also revealed that around 145,000 expat retirees from the UK have signed up to the European Health Insurance Card for discounted or free treatment in the European Economic Area (EEA).
In comparison, there are just 4,000 pensioners from the EEA registered with the NHS.
Ghanaian expats get new healthcare package
A health insurance package aimed at expat Ghanaians to buy insurance for their dependents in their home country has been unveiled.
The Premier Health Insurance package offers four levels of cover to suit a variety of incomes that will connect dependents and relatives to doctors and specialists for a range of medical conditions in the expat’s home country.
Cover also includes holistic care, outpatient and inpatient consultations, chronic conditions, optical and dental care as well as post-hospitalisation treatments.
Expat students see fee hike
International students looking to spend more than a year living in Ireland will need to take out full health insurance cover which could cost them up to €1,000 per year.
The move follows an announcement from the country’s Health Insurance Authority (HIA), which has told insurers that full-time international students will need the health cover.
Until now, the Irish Immigration Service has required that students that come from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) to have only a basic health cover for their emergency medical expenses and this can cost between €40 and €150 every year.
Now HIA has told one of the biggest health insurance providers to stop selling basic health insurance policies to foreign students.
There are more than 20,000 international students who have come from outside the EEA to study at Irish universities and there are another 100,000 students learning English at private colleges.
News of the health insurance hike for students in Ireland comes after the government has revealed plans to increase the number of international students in the country by more than 25% over the coming four years to boost the economy by €2 billion.
Health chiefs in Ireland are also considering plans to reduce or remove the extra premium on all new health insurance policies, including those taken out by expats in the country. Ireland says that there could be 10,000 people paying the extra premium without realising it and they may now restrict the additional premium to the insured person’s first ten years.
'Health tourists' targeted by NHS
NHS bosses in the UK have been told to ‘get a grip’ of the growing problem of ‘health tourists’ not paying for their treatment.
The call has been made by MPs who want to see £500m being recovered every year.
While NHS treatment is free for UK residents, expats who receive non-emergency treatment must pay for it.
MPs say there are also wide variations in how NHS trusts collect the unpaid money, calling the system ‘chaotic’.
GCC's Expat health workers will benefit
Analysts are predicting that a boom in the healthcare offering in the six-nation strong Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) will benefit expats in the sector.
A survey has revealed that the long trend of lay-offs across most sectors will come to an end and the number of job losses will stabilise.
The second highest rate of jobs growth – after consumer and food goods – will be in healthcare, including hospitals, with 55% of employers saying they will be employing more people.
The move will also benefit expats looking for health treatment in the GCC.
Meanwhile, another report reveals that the growing trend for expats in the GCC to have mandatory health insurance will also help boost jobs as hospitals take on more staff to meet growing demand.
In addition, with the region’s population rising quickly one bank says the sector could be worth $71.3bn in 2020.
In other healthcare news…
Expats working for the government in Thailand have been told that a plan for insurance firms to take over the provision of their health insurance cover has been put on hold. Officials are now looking into the costs involved.
Expats will benefit from a new health insurance information system that has been rolled out in Vietnam with the aim of boosting transparency and helping to prevent insurance fraud.
The government in Kuwait has revealed plans for expat patients who exceed their stay in hospital after treatment that will see their respective embassies being notified for them to prepare a suitable repatriation plan.
A bid to merge two health insurance giants – Humana and Aetna – has been blocked by a federal judge in the United States. The move upholds a decision by the country’s Justice Department that the move would see health insurance prices increase and hurt competition in the Medicare market.
Bupa Arabia has picked up two prestigious awards for delivering the best quality healthcare services and products that best meet customers’ needs in Saudi Arabia as well as delivering outstanding achievements for social responsibility. It’s also been revealed that the company is among the fastest-growing employers in the kingdom.
The government in Kazakhstan has announced plans for a compulsory social health insurance system which will be managed for expats, citizens and employers by the state. The new system will come in from July.
Growing numbers of international health tourists are heading to Malaysia to enjoy high quality, affordable healthcare there, the government says. Figures show that 850,000 medical tourists arrived in the country in 2015 – and many more made the trip last year.
The timeline for replacing Obamacare in the US has been unveiled, with plans for big portions of the healthcare offering being replaced by spring. Republicans say its replacement will give citizens and expats a greater choice in their healthcare options.
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