Expat Focus International Healthcare Update 16 March 2017
International firms look to pooling to reduce health costs
Global companies are increasingly looking to limit the cost of benefits for employees by pooling their arrangements to save money.
Research from Willis Towers Watson reveals that international companies who take part in a multinational pooling system for their employee benefit arrangements could see costs reducing by 25%.They also boost the performance of the insured employee benefit plans for recipients.
The research reveals that the main objective for pooling is to lower a firm’s premium costs or at least reduce them below inflationary levels.
A spokesman for the firm said that for a multinational company with 20,000 employees dotted around the globe means their employee benefits bill could be more than $25 million (£20.6 million).
He added: “As multinational companies look for cost management opportunities they can create a competitive advantage which also means they are taking a considered and proactive approach to managing their insurance benefits to make easy savings.”
When the countries where expats are working was analysed, Sweden produced the largest saving on a premium that had been pooled at 41% while Canadian pooled products were the worst performers at -16%.
Employers warned over 'off the peg' cover
Employers who have a globally mobile workforce are being warned to be wary about off the peg travel cover which may not provide an adequate solution for their expat employees.
The warning comes from Collinson Group after official statistics revealed that growing numbers of British businesses are increasingly looking overseas to create new business opportunities.
The spend on business travel has rocketed by 30% during 2015 and the number of business visits overseas increased by more than 5% in the same year.
However, Collinson is warning that the rise in civil and social unrest became a defining trend for 2016 and employers should take note of this when considering their insurance needs for employees.
They say that business travellers are increasingly facing unnecessary risks because there is a blurring of the line between a low risk destination and a high risk one.
They say employers need to provide appropriate cover for their expat employees and provide access to effective resources and rapid support when needed, whatever the circumstances the employee may find themselves in.
This means the requirement from their employees will be far above what the standard travel policy will provide for their overseas trips.
The company also says that employers and insurers need to work towards mitigating against risks by providing information and risk alerts as well as providing information sharing networks that will help when employees travel overseas.
A spokesman for Collinson group said: “Companies should take a proactive stance and build specific travel risk procedures and guidance around their insurance cover and look to protect staff against risks by ensuring they do more with their insurance cover and the provision of proactive assistance.”
Health fees for expats in Kuwait still on agenda
The Minister for Health in Kuwait has told news outlets in the country that the health fees paid by expats are still set to increase.
The Minister confirmed to one newspaper that the decision to increase charges for medical services enjoyed by expats will not be cancelled despite growing criticism of the move.
He added that all hospitals and clinics are ready to enforce the country’s new fee structure.
Health cover rule changes urged in UAE
Meanwhile, it’s been revealed that a private hospital group in the UAE is urging the government to make changes to its health cover rules for expats.
Mediclinic, an international healthcare operator, is urging the Abu Dhabi government to rethink the Emirates medical insurance rules and, apparently, at least two other healthcare firms are also speaking with authorities over the issue.
The healthcare operators are looking to amend or reverse the reform that reduces state insurance cover for expats and citizens that use their private hospitals.
The report from news agency Reuters says that the health insurance plan for Emiritis, known as Thiqa, has had its level of cover reduced, which has led to higher costs at state hospitals which are affecting the government’s budget.
Health insurance affects job choice
A survey on networking site LinkedIn has revealed that for 19% of respondents, health insurance was the main factor in opting to join an employer.
In addition, 20% of respondents to the survey said the cost and type of health insurance were a key part of their deciding whether to join, leave or keep a job.
Those responding included expats and citizens in the US and covered most regions and industries.
Employers roll out well-being strategies
A survey has revealed that UK employers are rolling out their workplace well-being strategies at an increasing rate for their employees in the country and overseas.
Their findings also reveal that most employers are looking to promote physical activity with mental health following close behind to boost wellbeing levels.
Of the initiatives being offered are discounted gym membership and health screenings though one of the fastest-growing areas under the programmes is sleep management with the number of employers looking to introduce this doubling to 88% over the past year.
The Reward & Employee Benefits Association says that 45% of UK firms offer a well-being strategy which is an increase from the 30% who did so last year.
Of the firms without a well-being strategy, nearly all are planning or want to implement one, say researchers.
Health insurance for EU students in the UK
The Home Office in the UK has moved to reassure EU students studying in the country that they will not be removed if they do not have proof of private healthcare insurance cover.
One national newspaper is reporting that a German Ph.D. student has been told she will be removed because she could not produce relevant medical insurance documentation while at Heathrow.
The latest reassurance is a departure from previous statements made by the Home Office which is aimed at calming fears among students and other EU nationals who may not know about the little-known requirement to have ‘comprehensive sickness insurance’.
Insurance is necessary for someone to qualify for residency in the UK.
Singapore is best for expats in Asia
The quality of healthcare provision for expats in Singapore has led to it being ranked as the best location in Asia for expats to live in.
The findings come from consultants Mercer who also rated education, crime, transport and political stability among their quality of living criteria.
The best city for expats is Vienna and the worst is Baghdad.
Meanwhile, Allianz Worldwide Care has revealed it has launched a range of international private medical insurance policies aimed at expats living and working in Singapore.
Their new offering will deliver healthcare solutions to meet the needs of expats as well as local nationals who are either currently living in, or are planning on moving to, Singapore.
Growing expat population will boost health insurance market
The world’s growing expat population is leading to an increasing demand for international medical insurance products, say researchers.
The rise will continue for the next five years, says International Medical Group in a white paper, though healthcare costs for expats and their employers will also rise.
They say expat choices for their health insurance needs will also change over the coming years, with younger expats particularly opting to use health insurance brokers to meet their comprehensive health needs.
This input into the market will itself lead to brokers and health insurance providers having to alter their offerings to meet the growing demand.
IMG says the industry will have to rethink how it structures and sells its services and products to the increasingly influential Millennial generation.
Expat health services in Dubai revealed
Dubai’s Ministry of Health and Prevention has revealed that it will soon begin offering free medical consultations to needy expats and nationals across a number of medical specialisations.
The offering is aimed at expats and locals of all ages to help those needing access for heart disease, diabetes, dermatology and plastic surgery among the 20 medical areas being offered. Doctors will also provide a health management plan for those who attend the clinics.
The services are available for one year from ministry-affiliated hospitals with ‘Clinics of Giving’.
A spokesman for the ministry said that the centres will begin operating from the middle of March and more details will be revealed soon.
In other healthcare news…
The UK’s ALC Health, which provides international private medical insurance to a wide range of clients, has now been bought by global assistance services and benefits company International Medical Group. Both firms say their operations are unaffected by the acquisition.
Expats in Hong Kong can now access medical insurance, corporate travel and group personal accident cover from Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance. The offering includes 24/7 access to the firm’s concierge and care services.
Aetna International has expanded its health insurance offering for expats by expanding into Canada and opening a Toronto office. Health cover will be provided for expats heading to Canada and Canadians heading overseas.
A survey has revealed that 90% of UK employers want to increase employee engagement to promote their benefits packages. AON Employee Benefits say the move will also boost employee choice and retention as they will appreciate more the level of health cover they enjoy as an employee.
Now Health International has announced it is boosting its customer services around the world and improving services for their members. The move follows the acquisition of Best Doctors Insurance two years ago which sees the firm delivering access to medical facilities and doctors in 200 countries for its 112,000 members.
Health clinics in Dubai are now accepting a patient’s Emirates ID card to access their health services. Expats and citizens who are signed up to the Essential Basic Package of healthcare insurance can use their ID card rather than the conventional insurance card to prove they can enjoy treatment.
CITIC-Prudential Life Insurance has been approved by Chinese authorities to begin operations there. The firm will set up a new office in Sichuan, the country’s fourth largest province, offering health insurance products to expats living there and also Chinese clients.
Kuwaiti MP Safa Al-Hashem is urging Parliament to back her plans to refuse medicines to expats living in the country seeking medical treatment at public hospitals and clinics in the country. She says that the fees paid by expats, currently KD1 and KD2, should be considered as the doctor’s fee rather than for including any prescribed drugs. However, doctors have responded by saying there should be no discrimination between expats and Kuwaitis in health or education.
Expats in Nigeria could be among those to benefit from a move by the Oyo State Health Insurance Agency to deliver universal healthcare in a bid to improve the poor health of residents there.
The virtual GP service Doctor@Hand is being extended after a deal by AXA PPP and Doctor Care Anywhere was agreed. More than 50 corporate clients have already signed up for employees working around the world to access a doctor when they need a consultation. Flight Centre Travel Group have also signed up to the service which offers small firms with employees working overseas access to the UK-trained, English speaking GPs.
Expats in Thailand who have been battling a haze of smog and pollution in the north of the country have been told by authorities there that it is no longer harmful to their health. The burning of fires has now been banned and dust particles are being control by water sprinklers.
Insurance firm Expatriate Group have unveiled a new online enrolment platform and boosted their travel insurance policies for mobile employees. Expats can also find ‘one way’ insurance cover for their travels.
Employers in Dubai are being reminded that the deadline for employees to have mandatory health insurance is fast approaching. The government extended the deadline to 31 March and all sponsors and employers are facing a fine for failing to provide cover to their employees by that date. The deadline for visitors to have health insurance is 31 December.