Expat Focus International Healthcare Update August 2019
New safety report from Riskline targets female expats
A series of travel safety report aimed at female expats and business travellers have been unveiled by travel advisors Riskline. With more than 220 countries and regions being covered, researchers have provided details of local laws and customs, as well as safety concerns.There are also details of health and wellness issues that female travellers need to be aware of in the country they are travelling to. The reports are aimed at a wide spectrum of female expat employees, regardless of their age and length of their assignment.
Riskline says the reports will help support an employer’s duty of care publications and to keep employees safe while working overseas or travelling.
The firm’s operations manager, Suzanne Sangiovese, said:
"Not every traveller is the same and female travellers have unique safety risks. Women are seen as an easy target for criminals and are more likely than men to suffer from sexual harassment."
The reports also offer advice to help female expats identify and avoid taking unnecessary risks when working abroad or travelling. The reports are available by country and have been put together by a team of experienced female analysts.
Expats urged to declare health issues
Employers with expats heading overseas should encourage their staff to declare health issues before travelling or risk medical complications while on assignment.
The warning comes from Towergate Health & Protection (formerly Health Insurance Group) who say employers should do more to encourage their staff to declare their medical history.
Also, knowing the expat’s medical history means the employer can assess a country for risks before sending their employee there.
It also means they can better support a current health condition.
As an example, the organisation points to expats with asthma heading to those destinations with severe pollution, such as Beijing. This means that the expat should be encouraged not to travel during rush-hour and have lots of inhalers or head to a different destination.
The firm’s head of international, Sarah Dennis, said:
"Trying to deal with a medical situation can be costly and stressful. Employees should try and avoid this and ensure that their medical records up-to-date."
She added that expat employees should also have health insurance when travelling and living overseas to provide peace of mind should they have a medical issue.
Axa boosts its health insurance strategy
Health insurance provider Axa has unveiled a plan to open 50 medical clinics to help 1.5 million clients in emerging markets by 2023. The rollout will start in Egypt and Mexico and then move to other countries.
Axa says that by launching its own medical centres and linking them to its health insurance provision, it will create a ‘physical and digital healthcare ecosystem’ for clients.
The firm says the medical centres will offer high quality and affordable patient experiences with access to medical consultations and advanced diagnostics.
Expats in South Korea sign up for health insurance
New rules making health insurance mandatory for expats in South Korea has seen the numbers being enrolled in its health insurance plan rocketing from 980,000 to 1.2 million at the end of July.
Any expat living in the country for at least six months must sign up for health coverage costing 110,000 won (£75/$91) per month. The government has also introduced new rules to prevent expats and health tourists from exploiting the country’s healthcare system and the government says around 400,000 more expats are expected to be enrolled in the system.
Manitoba students' bid to reinstate health cover
International students in the Canadian province of Manitoba have written to the government urging for the reinstatement of health insurance to cover them. The move follows a mandatory increase from $606 per student at the University of Manitoba to $865 (£534/$650).
The students’ union says that international students there are now paying some of the most expensive health insurance premiums in Canada.
Previously, international students in the province enjoyed free healthcare in a bid to encourage students to study there.
Meanwhile, it has been revealed that 40,000 international students in British Columbia did not enrol or pay for public healthcare last year. The news comes after a new healthcare fee of $75 (£46/$56) per month was announced for all international students in the province.
Expats opt for virtual healthcare
For expats working and living overseas, the use of virtual health services is growing increasingly popular. A new survey has revealed that 78% of expats would now prefer to use such a service when they have a medical need.
The findings from health care provider Aetna International found that growing numbers of expats are increasingly using digital health as well as telehealth products.
In Singapore, 92% of expats said they are more likely to use a virtual health service, followed by 90% of expats in the UAE. Younger expats, aged between 30 and 49 years, are more likely to use these health platforms compared to older expats – that’s those aged over 50.
NHS to charge EU citizens
NHS managers in the UK have been warned that they need to get ready for charging EU citizens accessing health services under a no-deal Brexit.
For those EU citizens who are living in the UK, they will need to prove they have a right to free NHS care under new rules being circulated to hospital managers.
The Department of Health says that trusts need to be prepared for charging EU citizens who may previously have been eligible for free treatment. The new rules begin immediately after the UK is scheduled to leave the EU, which is set currently for October 31.
Citizens’ rights groups and doctors’ representatives say the move is a ‘poorly planned measure’ and will place burdens on hospitals with the need to carry out immigration checks on patients who may not be able to easily prove they have a right to free care.
Healthcare fears for UK expats in EU
A leaked document showing the implications of a no-deal Brexit highlights that 1.3 million registered expats who are living in the EU may lose access to healthcare.
The ‘Yellowhammer’ report highlights that British embassies are predicting huge demand from British expats with time-consuming cases seeking access to healthcare. Currently, there are 300,000 expats living in Spain and 170,000 living in France.
The document predicts that British expats will lose associated rights and access to various services over time or they will be given access on a different basis.
While member states have published proposals for changing legislation, not all have passed rules to secure healthcare rights for UK nationals. The report for ministers also highlights that British expats need to take action now to deal with complex procedures as well as language barriers.
The importance of healthcare insurance
A new survey has underlined the importance of having healthcare insurance in place when travelling or moving overseas. All Clear Travel says the small print on all travel and health policies should be checked to avoid expensive medical costs. They say that breaking a leg in Spain will cost between £10,000 and £20,000 in medical fees, whereas in Switzerland or France it will cost between £250 and £500.
The firm highlights that getting medical treatment in Spain can be up to 30 times more expensive than in other European countries. Along with the US, other hefty medical price tags will be encountered in Thailand, China, India and Peru.
A spokesman for the firm said expats need to check the small print to see which treatments will be excluded.
Healthcare costs will continue to rise
The cost to employers in providing healthcare and medical plans for employees continues to out-pace inflation in most countries. Prices are increasing by 10% every year on average, says Mercer Marsh Benefits.
The firm predicts the medical costs will rise this year by 6.1% in the UK and around the world. The biggest medical costs are for the treatment of cancer, heart disease and respiratory diseases.
The consultancy also states that an ageing workforce in most countries means that healthcare costs will continue to rise for employers.
Thailand to announce expat health insurance demand
Expats heading to Thailand, and those expats already living there, will soon know the details of the government’s proposals to introduce mandatory health insurance for Non-Immigrant O-A visas.
The idea was first mooted in May for foreigners requiring health insurance of 40,000 baht (£1,065/$1,300) for outpatient cover and 400,000 baht (£10,650/$13,000) for inpatient cover.
The move is aimed at reducing the growing number of expats leaving unpaid medical bills after using hospitals in Thailand with the requirements being announced at the end of August. The government stresses that the mandatory health insurance demand will not be extended to expats with other visas are looking for an extension of their stay.
What expats need to know about health insurance plans
A checklist for expats who live overseas, or who are heading overseas, about what they should understand about health insurance coverage has been revealed.
Health insurance provider Pacific Prime says health insurance is crucial for expats but it’s also important that they source a policy that meets their needs and expats should ask:
How much will healthcare cost?
Expats should do their homework and find out how much various treatments will cost which will then give a good idea of what their health insurance benefits and limits will be for their new country.
Discover expat health insurance options
Since an expat’s circumstances will vary, it’s important to source health insurance coverage that meets their needs and budget. This means they should consider whether travel insurance is the best route offering coverage for up to two months, for example.
Understand what is covered
Expats should appreciate that health insurance plans have different levels of coverage from basic offerings to premium health insurance plans.
Understand regional differences
Expats also need to appreciate that some countries have mandatory health insurance requirements. Some expats will need to provide proof that they have adequate health cover before entering a country.
Understand the cost of expat health cover
While most expats will have coverage provided by an employer, other expats will need to pay for their own health cover and will need a budget for this. They will also need to know how comprehensive their plan needs to be and where the plan provides coverage.
Pacific Prime says that research is key to get the best health insurance price and enjoy the best level of cover and doing so may require the advice of a professional broker.
In other news…
A new app aimed at managing healthcare easily and quickly has been unveiled by DocHQ. The app offers a symptom checking service and also highlights where the nearest healthcare facilities and resources are. It’s also possible to enjoy discounts on health products from various brands. The app also enables expats to check which vaccinations may be required for visiting the destination and how far advanced they need to be taken.
Growing numbers of employees are using mental health support services from benefits provider Unum than ever before, the firm says. The aim is to support employees to return to work for various issues including those for anxiety and stress.
Health insurance provider Aviva has unveiled a new corporate mental health policy to enable employers to support employees with help for addictions including alcohol, drugs and social media. The new provision is being offered through its insurance scheme for organisations with at least 250 employees and it also covers children. Medical director, Doug Wright, said: “Addictions can have a big impact on mental wellbeing and we are broadening our mental health coverage to ensure employers can extend their support for their employees with addictions.”
Pakistan has unveiled a plan to issue health insurance cards to Pakistani expats so they can enjoy free medical facilities when returning home. The card will also be valid for their families too. The government says the initiative will help more than 10 million Pakistanis living overseas and are remitting huge amounts to their home country. The government also says an initiative will be unveiled to help health professionals are currently working abroad to share their expertise in boosting Pakistan’s health sector.
Expats in Kuwait can now pay for their health insurance online, the Ministry of Health has announced. They say that health insurance payments will no longer be processed manually and all health insurance activities will be done online from November.
Research from AXA Insurance highlights that business travellers and tourists will seek medical advice from hotel receptionists before contacting their insurance provider while overseas. Just 7% of travellers say they would call their insurer first if they had a serious medical issue needed a hospital.
Kuwait’s Ministry of Health has revealed that the ban on recruiting expats has been lifted in a bid to fill 193 empty medical positions in the country. Among the jobs being recruited are 42 doctors, 133 nurses and five pharmacists.
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