Expat Focus International Healthcare Update 24 August 2016

Employers of expats warned over EHIC

Employers of expats are being warned that travel insurance and the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) are not providing sufficient protection for employees who are travelling or working overseas.

The warning comes from Jelf Employee Benefits after a warning in July from the Association of British Insurers which said travellers should still use travel insurance and the EHIC after the UK’s vote to leave the European Union.However, Jelf says the EHIC is simply not adequate for those on work-related trips or relocating to European countries since it only provides cover similar to that available for the local population.

In addition, not every country has a healthcare system that is free at the point of use such as the UK’s NHS.

Jelf also points out the EHIC is designed for necessary medical treatment for the card’s holder before they return home and they can only access facilities provided by the state.

This means the healthcare facilities may be remote or oversubscribed.

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Instead, Jelf says that employers should always focus on providing international private medical insurance since this will provide access to health care that might be unavailable otherwise.

Health insurance products for expats will also provide access to English-speaking doctors and linguists and better health facilities that meet higher quality standards.

In addition, private medical insurance is essential for expats travelling outside of the European Union particularly when travelling to countries that have no reciprocal agreements for providing healthcare.

A spokesman for Jelf said that the EHIC was mainly aimed at holidaymakers in the European Union.

He added: “Our message is that international private medical insurance is vital for expats and while travel insurance may be required for overseas staff the policy wording should give clear guidelines about how often the employee can travel and how long they can remain overseas.”

The firm is also highlighting that employers of expats should be careful not to pay for duplication of cover between travel insurance and private insurance.

Want to save on your health insurance? Then share data…

Swiss health insurance firms are offering rebates to clients who share their physical activity data with health monitoring devices.

This is despite Switzerland having strict data protection laws.

Now Swica and CSS are offering lower health insurance premiums to encourage clients to attain their physical activity goals and become healthier people.

CSS was first out of the starting blocks in July with its ‘myStep Plan’ which offers their medical insurance clients a discount worth $.40 for every day they manage to complete at least 10,000 steps.

A spokeswoman for the firm said: “So far 2,800 clients have signed up and we consider this a success given the outcome in the short period.”

Swica is also offering health insurance premium reductions for those who connect their wearable devices or smartphones to its online platform and then achieve fitness goals.

Dubai's health insurers struggle with demand

Since health insurance became mandatory in the UAE, health insurance firms are struggling with a huge backlog of applications and are failing to provide health cards for clients to access healthcare.

Health industry experts say the insurance providers are failing to process paperwork and a backlog has now built up.

Since June 30, all workers in the UAE now need mandatory health insurance but employers are complaining that they are yet to receive insurance cards for their employees.

The backlog is despite the phased roll-out of the health insurance scheme by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) with the last phase being implemented on June 30. Now only domestic workers and dependents have their deadline for insurance delayed until the end of 2016.

However, employers who submitted paperwork to their insurance companies in the weeks before the deadline say payments for the service and cards have been taken but they have received no proof that insurance is in place.

One industry expert told a newspaper that the insurance firms were unprepared for the increased demand and were already understaffed. In addition, they have struggled with staff holidays and reduced working hours during Ramadan as well as long Eid holidays.

Those expats without an insurance card are being forced to pay for health treatment and questions are now being asked about whether they will be properly reimbursed for their expenses.

ACA-compliant health insurance for expats

An insurance company is offering expats a range of health insurance products aimed at meeting US healthcare regulations as well as offering around the world healthcare coverage.

America’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) means expats who spend 11 months or more in the country must be covered with an ACA-compliant health insurance plan so they avoid paying any tax penalties.

Now Bermuda-based WellAway is offering a new health insurance product which is aimed at expats who are relocating to the US and are looking for comprehensive medical coverage which also includes maternity benefits.

The health insurance cover also provides for repatriation and emergency evacuation as well as dental and vision cover.

International health plan launched by Bupa Arabia

A new health plan has been launched by Bupa Arabia which entitles its customers to access hospital and healthcare professionals anywhere and at any time while in Saudi Arabia.

The coverage also extends to their travel overseas and is the firm’s first push to cater for expats’ global healthcare needs.

Expats will be able to access more than 1.2 million providers of healthcare in 190 countries and they simply need to present a card to receive treatment.

They can also use the cover to access emergency or elective treatments when overseas.

A spokesman for the firm said: “With a number of expats and Saudis travelling for pleasure and business abroad rising, and with growing numbers of foreign business representatives and investors coming to Saudi, necessitates expanding our international coverage.

“People’s lifestyles are changing and we need to meet the demand for health coverage whether the person is a frequent traveller or whether they need a reliable international health insurance plan.”

New travel insurance cover for expats launched

A new travel insurance product for expats and international travellers which aims to offer UK-style ‘comprehensive’ coverage has been unveiled by Voyager Insurance Services.

The new cover is for expats and their families and will provide emergency medical expenses, assistance benefits and evacuation when necessary.

A spokesman for the firm said: “The products available tend to be restricted in their coverage or are inflexible and do not offer the range of non-medical coverage that is needed by a conscientious traveller.”

Expats get new hospitals in Qatar

Expats in Qatar will benefit from three new hospitals which are being built with all three ready by the end of next year and all of them will be dedicated for their use.

The hospitals will each have 120 beds, a clinic and an emergency ward and will be built in the country’s Central, North and South regions.

The idea is to provide high quality healthcare facilities for expats which are located close to their communities.

The new hospitals are part of an expansion of hospital beds by the Hamad Medical Corporation by which will see seven new public hospitals being opened by the end of 2017.

Cigna launches digital campaign

A new digital campaign has been launched by US-based worldwide health services firm Cigna to promote its level of health insurance cover by telling real life stories of those who’ve used its services.

The campaign is targeting expats in various countries and underlines the firm’s commitment to global wellness.

The firm says that having to deal with health emergencies can be a stressful time but with health insurance partners in 30 countries, Cigna can deliver a seamless service for an expat’s ‘wellness journey’.

Expats get health advice in UAE

Expats returning to the UAE are being urged to visit a doctor as soon as possible should they feel unwell to help prevent the spread of disease.

The advice is aimed at all expats returning to the Emirates but specifically towards those who have stayed in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal.

As such, anyone who complains of having headache, fever, vomiting or abdominal pain, among a long list of ailments, is urged to visit a clinic promptly.

In addition, UAE residents should also be aware of symptoms since many infectious diseases which are not present in the country may be present in places they visit overseas so prompt action may be needed to stop a disease from spreading.

Kuwait imposes visitor health insurance

Visitors to Kuwait will need health insurance and they will have to pay a Dh1,000 when entering the country, though this money will be refunded when they leave.

The aim is to reduce the pressure on government hospitals and stop the wastage of medicines.

Essentially, the government is imposing a comprehensive health policy for everyone visiting Kuwait and those who sponsor a visitor must attach a health policy which will determine the level of health service they will receive while in the country.

Best countries for expat retirees and healthcare revealed

Expat retirees looking for the best countries that offer quality of life and excellent healthcare can find the answers in a new report.

InternationalLiving.com says medical tourists as well as retirees could save tens of thousands of dollars when paying for medical treatment without sacrificing quality.

The report highlights a growing trend of ‘medical tourism’ as Americans appreciate that they can access better quality healthcare more quickly overseas and for less than they would pay in the US.

As result, they will save thousands of dollars on quality healthcare provision. Topping the list for healthcare is Costa Rica which has seen the government invest a large amount of money into its healthcare sector. The result has seen a boost in the number of expats looking for quality healthcare and medical services.

Apparently, 700,000 Americans visit every year with 15% of them taking advantage of the country’s healthcare services including those for dental care and cosmetic surgery.

Next on the list is Colombia which is a leading centre for cosmetic surgery and medical tourism that grew by more than 60% between 2012 and 2013.

The third best country for expats looking for quality healthcare provision is Mexico, according to the report, since most dentists and doctors there are trained in the US. The country enjoys low prices, modern hospitals and well-trained doctors.

The fourth best country for medical tourists is Malaysia which has a worldwide reputation for offering an excellent healthcare system that is also cheap. The country has a well-developed private and public healthcare system with medical expertise that matches that found in many Western countries.

The fifth country on the list is Thailand which is also highly rated by the World Health Organisation. Again, many doctors working there undergo specialist training overseas, particularly in Europe and the US, and are highly qualified as a result.

In other healthcare news…

Cambodia has announced plans to boost its attractiveness for elderly expats to visit and to live. The government says it will develop its infrastructure to help accommodate the needs of elderly expats including offering better access to healthcare services and making available extended visas. Plans are also in hand for expats to work in Cambodia and without the need of a work permit.

Dubai’s Pakistan Association has announced plans for a multi-speciality medical centre which will run on a non-profit basis to help the underprivileged. Supporters can buy a brick for Dh1,000 and organisers hope to sell 12,000 of them to fund the building work. The move follows a day of doctors helping to give 500 free medicals to expat workers in Dubai who otherwise would be unable to pay for a check-up.


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