Expat Focus International Healthcare Update 13 April 2017
British expat retirees face 'healthcare trap'
British expat retirees living in the European Union are facing a healthcare trap because of Brexit, MPs have been told.
At one hearing into the potential impact for expats around the EU, MPs were told that pensioners from the UK who live in France and Spain are increasingly worried about their residence and healthcare rights after Brexit.They were told that fears include not being able to access the S1 health scheme, which would mean expats in France losing their right to claiming back their healthcare costs.
Also, those expat retirees returning to the UK would be unable to access services on the NHS for at least six months after their arrival.
This means that for expats with pre-existing conditions or who require regular medication and healthcare treatments, the threat from Brexit is a real worry.
MPs were also warned that the expats will not be able to afford private healthcare insurance and up to 300,000 elderly expats may be forced to repatriate to the UK if a deal on healthcare isn’t reached.
Help to monitor expat staff around the world
An active monitoring service of staff around the world to keep them free from risk has been launched by HX Global and Healix.
The new service will help employers manage expat safety wherever they are on assignment and also deal with invoices, travel and expense claims.
The firms will communicate and assist staff on behalf of a company and also offer emergency safety information as well as free travel guidance.
The firms say that by tying-up they can offer a leading travel risk management service as well as a technology offering.
A spokesman said: “The unique and powerful combination will help minimise risk and deliver the risk management with a dedicated 24/7 monitoring service that will communicate and locate employees should there be a crisis.”
Expats in Malaysia face higher medical bills
Malaysia’s government has revealed that in the country’s public hospitals, expats must now pay much more in deposits for their medical treatment.
The new charges are already in place and some expats are seeing their deposits rocketing by as much as 233%.
The new rates are applicable to both expat adults and the children, but for foreigners who hold the country’s Permanent Resident status there are exemptions available.
Until January 2015, expats had to pay the same deposit for a medical treatment as Malaysians but an analysis showed they were using government subsidies to access cheaper bills.
Mobile talent gets global coverage
A new life insurance product for globally mobile executives and expat employees around the world has been unveiled by Regency for Expats.
The new policy will follow the insured from country to country rather than having to arrange healthcare coverage for each country being visited and will be available from May.
The policy also offers 24-hour assistance, counselling, child chaperone services and repatriation.
Expats paying cash for health treatment
Expats in Oman who lose their employer’s health insurance coverage must pay for their treatment when necessary.
However, it now transpires that expats who are paying in public hospitals are being charged more for their treatments than citizens and the government wants to stamp out the practice.
The Ministry of Health says there has been discrepancies in payments and they are challenging hospitals to explain why they are charging expats more.
In addition, expats are being urged to complain to the Ministry when they suspect they have been overcharged for their health treatments.
While many expats still have health insurance cover as a benefit, growing numbers are being told that their policies are being cancelled because of Oman’s current economic downturn.
The digital doctor will see you now
International SOS, a travel and medical security risk services firm, has unveiled a digital doctor consultation service for users around the world.
It’s being run from Aberdeen health centre and will provide a videoconferencing platform to help expats speak with occupational health consultants and discuss their return to work.
The aim is to reduce costs and safeguard a patient’s health and well-being, says the firm.
A spokeswoman for International SOS said: “For a patient to physically attend a consultation appointment can be time-consuming, particularly if they have to take time between their assignments in travelling to a clinic.
“The digital consultation assesses a patient’s well-being and safety regardless of the geographical distance and will offer cost efficiencies for employers.”
Expat patients can access the service from anywhere around the world and can easily and securely communicate with medical specialists.
Bahrain unveils National Health Insurance plan
Bahrain’s government has unveiled plans for a law that will create a National Health Insurance system.
Every person in the kingdom will be covered, including expats, though the government will be paying the premiums for Bahrainis while expats will have to pay their own way or have sponsors pay on their behalf through their private insurance company.
The insurance firms will need to be accredited by the government and they will pay hospitals directly.
One benefit from the introduction of the scheme is that expats will be able to decide which hospitals and doctors they want to see.
A spokesman for the government said the law should be finalised by the end of 2017 with the aim of distributing money fairly and controlling health expenditure more effectively.
International students complain about health insurers
International students at universities in the Canadian province of Québec are complaining about the rocketing price of health insurance to cover their stay there.
They say that over the last five years, the prices for student healthcare cover have risen by 35% from $710 per year to $1,099.
The international students do not have the option of opting out and most must accept the insurance offered by their University.
However, students are now launching a campaign to highlight the problem to help ensure costs will be reduced in future.
Expats will not be charged more
Kuwait’s government has confirmed there are no plans to increase the charges that expats must pay when accessing medical services.
The new charges will be enforced and sponsors must now attach the employee’s insurance policy when inviting expats to move to the country so they can provide proof of healthcare cover when entering Kuwait.
However, the move is proving controversial with growing numbers of critics saying that Kuwait should not be charging different fees for expats.
Many in the country are worried that expats are paying for annual health insurance that is costing between KD30 and KD50 (£79-£132/$98-$164).
In addition, they must pay for each visit to a clinic of KD1 and KD2 for visiting a hospital.
Among the critics is the country’s Nursing Society and Kuwait’s Doctor Society with both organisations highlighting the potential impact on society there.
Crisis predicted for Australia's healthcare
Australia’s healthcare system is heading for crisis say experts because growing numbers of Australians and expats living there will opt not to renew their health policies because of rocketing costs.
Data Insight has published the results of its study which found many Australians will prioritise car insurance costs over their private healthcare cover.
In addition, the industry is failing to attract enough new customers to help deliver its services.
Researchers say that around one in three people in Australia have little or no health care insurance cover.
Meanwhile, price hikes predicted for the Irish healthcare system will also lead to thousands of people opting out.
That’s because families could face paying the extra €1,000 due to price hikes and a proposal to remove the tax relief on policies.
Price rises of between €300 and €500 have already been unveiled for family health cover.
There are also worries that younger people will drop their cover when the system needs an increasing flow of them to help keep it running.
Warnings for travel risk may mislead
Research has revealed that US expats considering travelling overseas for medical care, whether that is to provide or receive it, should check the country’s State Department’s travel risk alerts and warning system.
The idea is to help Americans decide where and whether to travel.
However, while the US State Department’s figures are based on the number of US people being killed in a particular country, a new analysis says the figures are skewed.
For instance, the department says that 75 times more US expats are killed in Mexico than were killed in Thailand in the seven years to 2016 but when the figures are examined on a per capita basis for visitors, Americans are four times more likely to die in Thailand than in Mexico.
And while the US State Department has issued warnings about Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel, these have relatively low visitor death rates.
In contrast, the department does not offer warnings on Guatemala, Guyana or Belize but these countries have a relatively high ratio of visitor killings.
The figures come from researchers who analysed various surveys to pinpoint which are the most dangerous countries for expats and found that those who are heading overseas should conduct more research about the safety levels rather than accepting government figures.
In other healthcare news…
Expats working in Poland can now access MediHelp International products after they began offering their services there. The company is offering three distinct types of health insurance for coverage in Europe and around the world.
The Caribbean island of Grenada has unveiled plans for a National Health Service. To help pay for it, a National Insurance scheme will be in place this summer.
British citizens with the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) are being reassured that it is still valid for use after Article 50 was triggered for Brexit negotiations to start. The Department of Health says more than 27 million people in the UK with the EHIC card can access healthcare in another European Union country.
Global healthcare benefits provider International Medical Group has unveiled its new, redesigned website. The site has been designed for use on mobile devices and desktops and has a more intuitive and streamlined navigation system, the firm says.
Expats in the UAE will find that the names of some hospitals will be changing after the merger between Al Noor Hospitals Group and Mediclinic International. The rebranding will take up to a year to complete.
The Priory Group has unveiled plans to open a clinic offering well-being services to expats in Dubai. The treatments covered will include stress, depression and anxiety.
A new point of care system has been launched by BUPA Arabia in various clinics and hospitals so their members can receive health insurance services easily. The aim is to communicate effectively and deliver high levels of customer service.
Dubai’s government has confirmed that those residents who don’t have mandatory health insurance cover will have their fines for not doing so added to their visa renewal and cancellation fees. The visa will not be renewed until the expat has sufficient health insurance coverage.
Employers with expat employees are being warned that they need to be proactive when providing healthcare cover since off-the-peg travel insurance is inadequate for today’s globally mobile workforce. The warning comes from Collinson Group who say that with more UK firms looking for opportunities overseas means their business travel spend is increasing but employees need to be aware of the rise of civil and social unrest around the world.
Growing numbers of employees feel they are being pressured to work outside of office hours to answer emails which is increasing levels of anxiety. Research suggests that one in three do not switch off from work while on holiday and more than half of British workers will access emails when outside of the office.
Expatriates Group say that feedback from customers has led them to simplify their international health insurance plans. The firm says it wants its expat healthcare policies to be the most straightforward in the international healthcare market.
WellAway has unveiled what it describes as the most extensive healthcare coverage and benefits available that are tailored to expats around the world. The firm says its new offering, OneWorld, will be best in class and comes with various wellness tools and member services.
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