Expat Focus International Healthcare Update 30 March 2017
Expats putting their health at risk
Most expats heading overseas do not buy their health insurance cover before leaving their home country, say researchers.
The findings revealed that almost three out of four of expats questioned confessed they’d waited until arriving in their new country before resolving their healthcare provision.54% said they’d done so within two months after arrival and 17% of expats arranged healthcare cover only after they had experienced their new country’s healthcare facilities.
The findings from AXA PPP also show that 5% of expats did not buy health insurance cover at all.
More than 500 expats with at least one child were questioned and 60% said they had to access healthcare for non-routine reasons and one in four expats said they found understanding their new country’s healthcare system ‘difficult’.
Despite buying international health insurance cover to assist with the costs of accessing healthcare treatment, 17% of expats said they preferred to look for their medical treatment locally and pay for it when necessary.
When asked why expats did not arrange healthcare before leaving their home country, many said they did not think it was an important consideration.
Instead, expats place employment as the most important issue, at 52%, while finances and schooling were equal on 35% and just 32% of expats said healthcare insurance was important.
A spokesman for AXA PPP international health care said: “It can be a daunting prospect starting a new life in a new country, especially when there’s a family to consider.
“However, illness and accidents can strike at any time and access to appropriate treatment, in some parts of the world, can be very expensive and logistically difficult.”
He added that an international healthcare policy will help when seeking medical treatment and also when covering the costs of treatments and medicines.
Expat employers modified travel itineraries over security worries
Over the past year, around 85% of organisations with expat employees have modified their travel itineraries because of security or health concerns.
The figures cover 2016 and have been provided for the 2017 Travel Risk map which has been developed by healthcare and support providers International SOS, Control Risks and MedAire.
The map itself offers a comprehensive overview of the risks an expat may face in destinations around the world and helps employers to mitigate against potential travel risks being faced by their overseas talent.
A spokesman for MedAire said: “Events have had an impact on the advice provided for locations that have been considered low-risk traditionally.
“While risks change around the globe, organisations should ensure they mitigate against those risks.”
He added that when mitigating against risks for their expat employees around the world, employers should react to the reality of a potential situation and not their perception of it.
In a survey, the organisation found that 80% of global business travellers had modified their travel itinerary because of security and health concerns in the last year.
The firm is also predicting that more than half of organisations with overseas staff will face greater risks on travel and health issues over the coming year.
Spain offers hope on healthcare
British expats living in Spain who are fearing what the Brexit negotiations may bring them have been offered hope by the Spanish government.
The country says it will support the deal for British expats to remain in the country and enjoy access to healthcare.
Spain says it will, ‘in principle’, favour an agreement that enables British expats to remain and retain their existing rights, including pension rights.
The announcement follows one British government minister who said the government hears ‘very clearly’ the worries of British expats around the European Union, particularly those who want to access healthcare after the UK leaves the EU.
The issue is a crucial one for expat retirees since they say they cannot afford healthcare insurance in their new countries and face the prospect of either going without health cover as they get older or returning to the UK.
Expats warned to be wary about ACA changes
While many expats working in the US may believe that the changes to ‘Obamacare’ may have nothing or very little to do with them, various organisations are urging them to be wary.
That’s because the Congressional Budget Office was predicting that 24 million people would lose health insurance cover under President Trump’s rejected healthcare changes.
However, the organisations are also pointing to the CBO’s prediction that there are 7 million people who already have health insurance that is provided by their employer which may also be removed in future.
In addition, the CBO says that more employees will soon be choosing to forego health cover so they can boost their pay cheques.
The Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, has been controversial since before it was passed into law, and President Trump has campaigned to remove it.
However, estimates say that there will be a net reduction in employers offering coverage and fewer employees taking up health cover because the mandated penalties for individuals could be removed.
One of the downsides being highlighted by those opposed to changes to ACA is that with fewer people wanting cover, healthcare bills for those who do will inevitably increase substantially.
Expats to enjoy new medical services
When expats are injured or fall ill when away from home, then accessing crucial medical care when they are being transported to hospital can be critical.
Now International Medical Group is offering an additional level of support with its newly based medical unit.
The unit is UK-based and offers a network of 30 health professionals to provide a medical escort service in many countries to help expat clients get the medical help they need either in their new country or by helping them to return home.
Kuwait planning to increase expat fees
News reports in Kuwait reveal that MPs there are looking to increase the healthcare fees being paid by expats as they plan for the segregation of hospital care for expats and locals.
The changes which could be occurring soon include restricting access to some procedures, including endoscopies and resonance image scanning.
MPs are also set to increase fees for health services though they understand that it will take nearly three years for private hospitals to meet demand should expats be barred from the country’s public hospitals.
Currently, expats pay KD2 or (£5.23/$6.57) for a check-up and the fee includes any prescribed medicine.
The report also points out that MPs are asking how expats can be removed from administration departments in government sectors and for some expats to be deported when a project is completed.
The call for expats to pay for the medicine has been backed by the director of the Hawally Health sector.
Dr Fahd Al-Foudari said expats should pay for all or part of their medicines, adding that 60% of those visiting the Hawalli medical facilities are expats.
Brits and expats prefer cash plans
A report on employee benefits has revealed that cash plans are now the second most popular employee benefit being enjoyed by workers in the UK.
However, cash plans still lag behind contributory pensions but they have now leapfrogged health and life insurance offerings.
The findings from Willis Towers Watson found that 12% of employees valued a health cash plan – with two in three of those doing so earning less the national average salary.
A spokesman for the firm said: “Unlike most insurance products, the great value for cash plans is they are used to regularly recover essential healthcare expenses such as dental treatment or optical costs.”
This financial help also makes them more popular to lower wage earners.
Singapore expats targeted with healthcare policies
Expats living and working in Singapore are being targeted by group and individual healthcare policies unveiled by Allianz Worldwide Care.
The products meet the needs of expats and their families who are living in, or are planning on moving to, Singapore.
There are also group plans available for multinational employers and members get access to the firm’s global medical network.
Expats lose sleep with work stress
A survey from BUPA has revealed that just 12% of respondents in the UAE say they get to sleep eight hours every night.
One in four are struggling with a lack of sleep through work related stress.
Another 21% are suffering with financial worries and 6% say they struggle to sleep for one or two nights every week.
The night before they return to work is usually the one where the workers get their worst night’s sleep in a week.
In other healthcare news…
Expatriate Group has unveiled an extension to its policies and will offer one-way cover for those people moving to a new country. Their offering also includes new travel cover for business equipment and business money that is lost.
AIG Travel has announced changes to its travel assistance package including a new offering which connects members directly to an emergency travel assistant as well as a GPS enabled directory of nearby healthcare providers.
United Healthcare Global has revealed that it is teaming up with New Frontier Group with members of both organisations having access to a wide range of services and benefits as a result.
Australian health insurance bosses have been warned they face being called by the Senate to explain their soaring health premiums which have risen by more than three times the rate of inflation this year. Rising premium costs mean more expats and Australians will opt not to renew their healthcare insurance, say industry experts there, and already it appears that the industry’s growth predictions will not materialise.
Specialist life insurer Lutine is launching a new product aimed at firms should they lose key talent due to illness or injury. The aim of ‘Executive Protection’ is to protect the employer from the financial impact of losing an executive.
International SOS has unveiled plans for a rapid response counselling service which will be offered in more than 60 languages. The firm has teamed up with Workplace Options to offer support on the ground during and after expatriates set off on a business trip. The service will be delivered either by a face-to-face consultation or via a video or phone call.
A survey has revealed that nearly half of employers in the UK are now offering financial education as part of their staff well-being strategies and more firms are looking to do so over the coming year. The aim is to help people with money worries which has an impact on employee health.
Expat construction workers around the world need mental health support, says Group Risk Development. They say workers are at bigger risk from suicide as they are from falling from heights. Support for workers should be available through employer life assurance, critical illness and income protection schemes.
Expats looking to enjoy a happy existence should head to Costa Rica, according to an InterNations survey which reveals it’s the happiest country in the world for expats to live in. It is followed by Malta, Mexico, the Philippines and Ecuador.
Pregnant expats in Sweden will be able to access better maternity facilities after the government granted an extra $57million to boost services after growing numbers of complaints over a lack of beds and having to travel long distances to hospital – in some cases mothers-to-be were sent to Finland.
China has unveiled plans for citizens and expats there to enjoy lower priced medicines along with an overhaul of the country’s healthcare system. Staff numbers, including nurses, will also be boosted and more services will be available.
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