Expat Focus International Healthcare Update 25 November 2016
Employers focus on wrong expat health risks
Employers are focusing on the wrong risks when sending staff on overseas assignments, according to research.
International SOS says that businesses are ignoring the most common risks to their staff while giving to much weight to the risks from Zika and terrorism.In their Travel Risk Map, 71% said that a terrorism risk was their greatest concern when sending staff overseas, with just 15% of employers saying they were concerned about road accidents and inadequate healthcare as their main worries – even though they are more common.
Employers also expressed fears over the Zika virus, a worry for 49%, and 46% said they were worried about civil unrest.
The organisation’s medical director of information, Irene Lai, said employers sending staff overseas should look beyond the news headlines.
She explained: “It’s crucial for employers to familiarise themselves with the health risks associated with travel and take steps to reduce those risks.
“While the Zika virus has had lots of media coverage, medical issues such as travellers running out of medication or having gastric issues, do not make the headlines but are more likely and can affect a business trip.”
Ms Lai added that road accidents pose a major risk when travelling overseas despite many countries showing strong improvement in the number of road accident deaths.
The organisation also found that 72% of respondents said there has been an increased risk for those who are travelling overseas compared with last year and 80% said they had modified the travel itineraries for staff because of security and health concerns.
ACA health plans for expats launched
The largest international health insurance broker in Asia, Pacific Prime, has announced new plans to help US expats heading overseas and those expats who are visa holders entering the US.
For those heading to America for work, they are required to secure compliant health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that meets ‘minimum essential cover’ requirements.
Now the company has unveiled a new website with in-depth information for expats which has all they need to know about the ACA and they can buy a relevant health plan directly from Pacific Prime.
The firm’s managing director, Neil Raymond, said: “Finding a single a compliant insurance is important not just for American citizens but also expats who hold relevant visas. These plans offer worldwide coverage and also meet the mandated coverage under ACA in the US and help the expat having to pay non-compliance fine.
“We have seen growing demand for these products and as other insurers develop their international coverage plans that meet ACA requirements we will strive to bring them to clients.”
US expats will find healthcare cheaper overseas
US expats looking for cheaper healthcare should head overseas, according to one organisation.
International Living has responded to a recent survey that revealed that to stay in a US hospital for just one day can cost, on average, $1,514 but could be up to $12,537.
In comparison, it costs just $853 to stay in a French hospital for a day.
In addition, someone having an appendectomy in America would have to pay, including the hospital and physician bills, $8,156, while in France the bill would amount to $4,463.
For expats living in America, a routine doctor’s visit would cost them an average of $95 but could cost up to $176 while in France expats would pay just $30.
In an article, it’s explained that the prices vary so much because they are negotiated by insurance companies and settled through insurance claims though prices vary from region to region in America.
Among the countries offering lower healthcare costs include Colombia and many countries in South East Asia where Western-trained doctors who can speak English are available – and the prices are a fraction of what expats in America are being charged.
Costa Rica and Malaysia are also singled out for their low cost of healthcare and medication.
Employee health insurance mandatory in Oman
Oman’s Chamber of Commerce has revealed that from 2018 it will be mandatory for all employees to have health insurance.
The announcement comes as employers in the country have revealed they have been retracting or reducing their health coverage because of the economic downturn.
Now the chamber says ethical health insurance cover most be provided for the country’s private sector workers and they are urging employees to abide with the plan.
The idea is to follow a scheme that is similar to the one introduced by Dubai, with health plans being implemented in the country over a number of phases and which are based on company size.
The first phase will be for employers with more than 100 employees while the second will focus on firms that employ between 50 and 100 employees.
News outlets say the decision will benefit expats working in the country’s private sector and there are around 1.76 million expats currently working there.
Expats in US could face major healthcare reforms
Following the election of Donald Trump to be the next president of the US, a major reform of the American healthcare market, as well as its health insurance system, may be undertaken.
While out on the campaign trail, Mr Trump promised wholesale changes to ‘Obamacare’, otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act.
The aim of the legislation brought health insurance to greater numbers of people in America who received no health insurance cover from their employers and who were not covered by a health programme run by the government.
However, the changes may well affect expats working in the US who have a legal requirement to have health insurance or face stiff penalties.
There are currently just 8.6% of people in America without health insurance, the lowest ever recorded rate, and any planned changes to the healthcare system will have a huge impact.
Meanwhile, an article in Forbes magazine has highlighted four tips on how to choose the best healthcare cover for 2017.
Aimed at Americans and expats with employer-sponsored health coverage, the article highlights that out-of-pocket costs are growing.
Among the tips are to estimate a person or family’s health needs for the coming year before assessing the market, spend lots of time choosing the correct health plan and examine carefully all of its out-of-pocket costs before signing up.
A survey of American has revealed that they want the President-elect Donald Trump to tackle healthcare first with 21% of voters followed by jobs with 16% of Americans.
In October, a separate survey revealed that most Americans are wanting access to cheaper prescription drugs and to a larger network of doctors and hospitals.
Bahrain health fees for expats increase
Expats are facing the prospect of having to pay more when receiving healthcare services at health centres and public hospitals in Bahrain.
Currently, expats are paying BD3 (£6.37/$7.96) but this will increase to BD7 (£14.87/$18.58) at government-run institutions.
In addition, expats are also facing having to pay more for prescriptions and get their medication from private pharmacies.
The new charge will cover dental consultancy too.
ACA compliant health plan for expats launched
A health plan aimed at expats that will meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act in the US has been launched by Cigna International.
The global medical provider is aiming the policy at expats living in the US and for American expats living overseas.
The policy is available from selected expat insurance brokers and fills a gap in the market because, the firm says, many existing expat health plans are not ACA compliant.
The attraction for American expats is that they will not need to buy two healthcare plans for domestic and overseas use.
Expats can crowdfund healthcare costs
There appears to be a growing trend for people, including expats, heading to crowdfunding websites in a bid to raise the money to help pay for their medical bills.
One news outlet has looked at the trend and found that people are using the sites to enable their friends and strangers to donate money to help them meet their medical bills.
One website saw its healthcare section raise $147million from donors in 2014 – and the trend is growing in popularity.
UK employers fail the stress test
A private medical insurance intermediary has revealed that one in three UK employers have seen a rise in stress-related absence.
Chase Templeton says employers must work to reduce the financial and personal cost to the workplace brought about from mental health and stress issues.
A spokesman for the firm said many employers are failing their employees by not taking low cost and relatively simple steps in addressing the causes of stress staff as well as its symptoms and treatment.
However, around half of employers use their employee assistance programme to help identify and reduce stress in the workplace and this is a popular form of insurance benefit.
Survey reveals best cities for expats
A major survey has asked 14,000 expats around the world what they think of their current country to find which are the best for expats. Healthcare and a positive work-life balance were rated as high priorities.
The results saw Melbourne in Australia take the top spot, with expats enjoying lots of leisure activities to ensure the best work-life balance.
In second place is America’s fourth largest city, Houston, followed by the Spanish capital Madrid where expats told networking organisation InterNations they made friends easily and settled in quickly.
In other healthcare news…
China has committed itself to participating in a worldwide campaign to promote better health and improve healthcare provision in developing countries. In a speech at a major conference, the country’s Premier Li Keqiang said 20,000 medical workers have been sent to 67 countries to help 260 million people receive medical treatment.
After the recent smog in New Delhi saw schools being closed and expats fleeing the city for less polluted areas, there are still concerns that the air quality is poor. Indeed, a management consultancy says the pollution index reveals that New Delhi’s is hazardous and in some areas is five times higher than the health limits set by America’s Environmental Protection Agency. One real estate consultancy says employers are looking again at the health implications for expat employees living and working in the city and may yet move out.
A survey of how easily adults can access healthcare services has revealed that the best country for doing so is the Netherlands. The survey also asked those who could not access healthcare because of cost, and found that 33% of respondents in the US could not do so, while 22% of Swiss and 18% of people in New Zealand could not do so either. The figures reveal that 17% of people in France, 16% Canada and 14% in Australia could not access healthcare.
The World Health Organisation has announced that Zika is no longer a global health emergency. The announcement means that people can now stop taking the steps necessary for prevention of the disease. However, the organisation notes there is still a ‘significant’ long-term issue with Zika.
The latest mobile phone app aimed at helping expats around the world access healthcare has been developed by a doctor in Nigeria. It’s called Hudibia and connects medical practitioners with people around the world; there are currently 1,000 users and 250 doctors signed up.
Expats working in Saudi Arabia could benefit from a new free telephone medical advice service. It’s being run by Bupa Arabia, the largest healthcare provider in the kingdom, and will offer answers and advice for any medical question posed, whether the caller is a member of Bupa Arabia or not.
Expats and citizens in the UK may need to provide proof of ID before they can access healthcare, the Department of Health has announced. A senior civil servant has told a Commons committee that the move would be controversial but would help in reclaiming money from healthcare tourists.
The head of health and tourism for the Caribbean Public Health Agency has said the region should promote itself as a health as well as a tourism destination. By boosting tourism numbers, the region will give itself a marketing edge with healthier and safer tourism destinations.