Expat Focus International Healthcare Update 31 October 2016
BUPA expands into Switzerland
British expat health insurance giant Bupa is growing its international business by expanding into Switzerland.
The firm is opening a new office in Zürich after receiving a licence to sell international private medical insurance policies through Bupa Global to corporate clients in the country.
Bupa will now be providing employers in Switzerland with a premium level of international cover for expats working and travelling overseas.The firm says the move is a good one and places it in the centre of a global financial hub that is home to professionals and multinational businesses.
A spokesman said: “Looking after the well-being and health of globally mobile employees is increasingly important for employers and we are expecting to see strong growth.”
News of BUPA’s expansion coincides with an announcement that they are expanding their international private medical insurance range for UK employers.
Bupa Global says that its new business health plan is designed for employers who want to offer premium international cover for workers in specific areas or want to offer better benefits for their key employees.
The new offering will provide around-the-clock medical insurance cover for employees wherever they are in the world and includes provision for evacuation, in-hospital care, rehabilitation and transplants as well as treatment for serious illnesses including congenital and chronic conditions.
Azerbaijan announces mandatory health insurance cover0
Expats looking to work in Azerbaijan will need to show evidence of medical insurance after the government announced everyone in the country will need cover for more than 1,800 medical services.
The government is offering a basic package of healthcare insurance in one region and this will be rolled-out throughout the country and will include the offer of a range of medical services including inspection and treatment as well as surgical and diagnostic procedures.
UK's medical plans will increase by 6.4%
The cost for employers in the UK to provide employee healthcare plans will increase by 6.4% this year, according to Mercer Marsh Benefits.
One reason for the rise in costs is the growing number of claims related to employee lifestyle choices including having a poor diet, a lack of exercise and smoking.
In the firm’s research, they are analysed medical trends around the globe, excluding the US, and found that the average increase in healthcare costs per person will be around three times the rate of inflation.
Other cost increases are down to non-communicable diseases which are largely down to lifestyle choices as well.
The firm’s president of retirement and health benefits, Jacques Goulet, said the results point to ways that employers can control their healthcare costs.
The firm says that if employers were serious about delivering healthcare benefits for their employees they will need to analyse what is working for the workforce as well as what is not.
This means analysing wellness programmes and educating staff on their lifestyle choices in a bid to control long-term medical plan costs.
The average cost for medical plans in Europe will rise by an average of 7.8% this year while those in Russia will rise by 17.8% and the lowest increases will be seen by workers and employers in France with a 1.8% increase.
Employers in Asia will see their medical costs rising by an average of 11.5% this year with the largest rise seen in Vietnam of 19.3% in Malaysia with 17.3%.
Medical costs in Canada will rise by 6% and in Latin America the average increase will be 12.8%.
Trends for expat health insurance
A new report has revealed that as nations get richer, they boost the growth for the world’s health insurance market.
Indeed, Transparency Market Research says the growing numbers of HNW people and a growing middle class means more people are looking for the benefits of healthcare insurance for themselves and their families.
To match this interest, more healthcare insurance firms are increasingly making their offerings as transparent as they can which makes it easier for potential buyers to compare products and understand the insurance terms.
It looks like more firms will market their products in an easy to understand format, particularly for expats and their employers.
The only cloud on the horizon, according to the report, is the growing level of competition and pressure on profit margins.
The report also reveals that the US is the world’s leading health insurance market with five big players accounting for 80% of public and private sector insurance schemes.
Another big market is the Asia Pacific region which is showing a quick expansion in demand as the GDP for the region grows as well.
The leading players in offering health insurance are Cigna, AIA, United health, Allianz, AXA, Aviva and international medical group, says the report.
Expats face higher medical insurance bills in Kuwait
Expats working in Kuwait’s private sector will see their health insurance bills rise from next year by 165%.
The Kuwait Health Insurance Company says premiums will rise from $165 to $430 and are, says the firm, in line to help pay for the country’s independent expat healthcare system.
The rises do not, the insurance firm adds, reflect the actual cost of providing health services for expats in Kuwait.
The new healthcare system, called Dhaman, will benefit around 2 million expats living in the country who will be able to access three specially built new hospitals and 15 medical centres.
Kuwait also adds that the provision for medical services for expats is on track and the first hospital will be opened next year.
Employers in the US look for better health value
Expats living and working in the US may find they benefit from a push by employers looking for better value healthcare products, according to a survey.
Employee benefits consultancy, Willis Towers Watson, found that 45% of employers questioned said they were giving their employees access to a centre of excellence as part of their benefits package.
That’s an increase of 37% of employees questioned last year and the survey asked 600 employers in the US what they were offering their 12 million full-time workers.
Some household names have partnered with hospitals in various parts of the country in a bid to control their rising health benefit costs which are looking like increasing by another 6% next year.
It’s this prospect of paying yet higher health insurance premiums as part of an employee benefits package that will force another 32% of employers, according to the survey, to look at having access to centres of excellence by 2018.
One reason for the slow uptake is that few employers offer incentives for their employees to use the centres of excellence and just 17% of employers reduced their employee cost sharing benefit though 54% of employers said they will look again at reducing their employee’s health bills in 2018.
The findings are similar to another survey released in August which found that 16% of employers are looking to work directly with medical service providers in a bid to reduce their healthcare bills for employees.
However, few employers contract directly with a carer organisation to deliver various medical services. Most employers are still utilising health plans instead.
More employers are also setting up better value arrangements with health insurance providers to not just reduce costs but to boost employee health outcomes.
Employers overestimate group protection costs
A survey has revealed that most employers are overestimating the cost of providing group protection for their employees with life assurance costing, typically, less than 0.5% of payroll expenditure.
Despite this, Group Risk Development says 70% of employers wrongly believe the costs would be more and 8% thought it would be more than 10% of their payroll.
In addition, group income protection will cost employers less than 1% of their payroll, yet 60% believe it will cost more with 9% believing it will cost more than 10%.
The same survey also revealed that nearly two in three of employers believe they have a bigger role to play when it comes to protecting the welfare and health of their employees.
Energy industry benefits from new medical partnership
The energy sector is a big employer of expats and offshore emergency medical support firm, International Medical Management (IMM), has now teamed up with CEGA, the security and medical assistance provider, to deliver medical services for the energy industry.
The idea is to provide cover for those who work in hazardous conditions while in remote locations by offering emergency access to trauma doctors. There will also be medical support from CEGA’s response centre in the UK on a 24-hour basis.
The service will unite the skills of specialist medics around the world to deliver medical support for workers in the gas and oil as well as renewable energy industries.
Health premiums in Australia will not be rising
Expats living and working in Australia will be pleased to hear that the federal government has stepped in to help prevent the rise of health insurance premiums.
That’s because they’ve changed the pricing tariffs for many medical devices including lenses, knees and pacemakers with a taxpayer subsidy over the next six years.
The health minister said that it’s now time for the country’s health insurers to deliver on their promises to lower premium increases for 2017.
Social media can help lower premiums
Expats in some countries may come to appreciate using Twitter and other social media platforms since it could lead to their monthly insurance health bill being reduced.
That’s because research has been published that suggests there is a direct link between someone sending a positive post and reducing the risk of heart disease.
It’s this sort of sentiment that could, in future, help health insurance providers to lower premiums by analysing the data of clients and potential clients alike when they calculate risk.
One firm, Swiss Re, says that the advances in technology will help cut health insurance protection levels and help boost the incentives for employers to deliver health benefits to employees.
Health insurers have revealed that they are also looking at the prospect of monitoring social media output for the clients as one element of helping to price a health insurance policy.
In other healthcare news…
Expats living and working in the US may lose access to the health insurance if they get it under the country’s Affordable Care Act, better known as Obama care. That’s because, according to Bloomberg, nearly 1.5 million people will lose access to it in 32 states. Instead, they face finding new healthcare coverage that will be more expensive and with fewer options after some large healthcare providers announced losses and were leaving the programme’s exchanges.
A survey in the US has revealed that 76% of respondents said that the best point for people to appreciate the benefits of health insurance was in high school or college, according to FAIR Health. Currently, the basics of health insurance are not taught to students and the firm says that there’s a strong appetite for information on health insurance and healthcare choices.
The largest healthcare insurance provider in Saudi Arabia, Bupa Arabia, has announced it is renewing its partnership with a local health provider. Both organisations have worked together for 15 years to provide healthcare and services to expat employees and their families in the kingdom.
Employers in New Zealand will be able to offer their employees and families a new health insurance product from Southern Cross Health Society from November. The firm says it’s offering a comprehensive suite of workplace well-being and health services.
Expats in the US should be aware that the quality of outpatient care has not improved over the past decade despite lots of effort to encourage improvements , according to a report. The report’s authors say the quality of outpatient care being received has ‘remained largely flat’.
The world’s health insurance market is set to grow by 11% over the next four years, according to data from Technavio. Among the key drivers are increasing life expectancy and an ageing population, the firm says.
Allianz Worldwide has been judged to be the best health insurance provider of the year by the Global Fund Awards. The international awards assess and recognises an organisation that delivers impressive performance and this year it has been handed to Allianz.
A study has revealed that the private insurance market in China is booming – thanks to the nation’s ageing population and a growing appetite from employers to offer medical insurance to expats and local employees alike.
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