Expat Focus International Healthcare Update December 2017

Expanding Expat Workforce Changes Health Focus

With the global workforce of expats expanding, international employers are adapting how they deliver health and well-being benefits to employees, reveals a survey. Expats are increasingly demanding more extensive lifestyle and medical benefits in their relocation packages. They are also looking for flexible working arrangements and a focus on their well-being and mental health.

The findings from Bupa Global, who questioned human resources directors working for international employers, discovered that 52% of respondents reported a greater demand for employee benefits over the last five years. Also, one in three HR directors say the demand had led to greater well-being and health benefits for expats being put in place.HR directors are also predicting that their expat workforce will grow over the coming five years – with most seeing growth in Europe, for 80% of respondents, and in North America, for 53%. They also believe that expat opportunities will increase in Asia, for 44% of employers, and in the Middle East where 35% of HR directors said there will be growth in expat numbers.

When asked about the benefits for attracting expats, Bupa found that flexible working hours and international private medical insurance are the big attractions and around 25% of expat staff said they expected more benefits from employers than five years ago.

The reasons why mental health is becoming a workplace concern, according to the survey, is that HR directors are seeing growing cases of stress from their expat employees. 36% of respondents said there had been more expats with depression and 33% said anxiety was on the increase. 79% of HR directors said that to stand out against their competitors, the provision of private medical insurance for expat workers was a huge attraction.

BUPA Global’s managing director, Sheldon Kenton, said: “IPMI is increasingly a weapon for the recruitment and retention of expat staff… Employers are waking up to well-being and health benefits when it comes to retention and recruitment.”

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Reducing Risk On Overseas Assignments

Employers are being offered tips on how they can reduce the potential risks for their staff when working overseas.

A new guide from employee benefits consultancy Punter Southall Health & Protection states that employers have a duty of care to ensure their expat staff understand cultural differences and legislation in their new countries.

The firm’s managing consultant, Audrey Rowley, said employers risk assignments failing and costing them thousands of pounds while also creating emotional distress for expat employees as well as their families by not taking precautions. She explained: “The individuals chosen for assignments tend to be high-flyers which makes business sense for employers to ensure they fully support and prepare them pre-, during and post- an international assignment.”

Among the tips for employers when relocating employees are:

• Give cultural training before leaving
• Check the employee is medically fit
• Consider an intensive language training course
• Consider an expat employee assistance programme that will offer reassurance
• Help provide international medical health insurance.

Reciprocal Care Deal Welcomed By Health Alliance

The NHS Confederation’s Brexit Health Alliance has welcomed news from Brexit negotiations for the continuation of the current levels of healthcare provision. The agreement also ensures that British travellers in EU countries before March 2019 will still be able to use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

A spokesman for the Brexit Health Alliance said: “This is good news to maintain reciprocal healthcare for those who cross borders before March 2019. There are other health issues which also need urgent attention. It is vital that patients can continue to access health technologies and medicines.”

Health Of International Business Travellers Overlooked

The health of international business travellers in the US could be deteriorating rapidly because of their hectic nature of work and high stress levels.

On-Call International, a travel risk management firm, carried out a survey that found 54% of travellers are less likely to exercise while on a work trip compared to when they are not travelling. Also, 44% of these mobile executives said they are more likely to have an unhealthy diet when working away. In addition, 36% said they felt more stress and one in three say they have sleeping problems.

The firm’s chief medical officer, Dr William Siegart, said: “Stress can lead to chest pain, gastrointestinal distress and headaches. The travellers can also exacerbate a pre-existing condition and lead to the development of asthma, depression and cardiovascular disease.”

He says that employers have a duty of care to help reduce stress among their business travellers and should host pre-travel health workshops which will help reinforce healthier behaviours. However, the research also reveals that just one in four business travellers said they considered the health implications they risk when travelling.

Meanwhile, AXA PPP Healthcare has revealed it is publishing a guide for employers to promote physical fitness within their workplaces after finding that 27% of staff do not exercise at all during the week. The guide offers cheap activity tips including lunchtime walks and walking to meetings.

No Medical Fee Increases In Kuwait

Kuwait’s health minister has revealed there are no further plans for increasing medical service fees for expats and he says that recent fee increases were to help pay for better healthcare and develop medical departments. A move to increase the annual health insurance costs for expats in the country to KD130 (£320/$430) ‘were still being studied’.

The announcement coincides with a Kuwaiti newspaper investigation which revealed that expats are increasingly shunning the country’s hospitals as the fee hike takes effect. Journalists interviewed patients and found that many cannot afford to pay the KD10 (£25/$33) per day fee which expats – including doctors, nurses and pharmacists – must now pay. They must also pay KD10 for each consultation plus other charges.

However, private hospitals in Kuwait appear to be increasing in popularity and health insurance companies are also said to be doing well with growing numbers of expats signing up. Meanwhile, authorities in Dubai have recognised that 70% of the population can only afford the basic care insurance package and have unveiled plans for two new hospitals to help meet the medical needs of those in this mandatory insurance class.

Health Insurance Challenges In The Netherlands

The end of affordable additional care in the Netherlands could be near, says the country’s central bank.

The DNB monitors Dutch health insurers who are not earning enough; some are struggling with losses from the supplemental health insurance policies they sell.

Under the country’s healthcare system, a doctor’s visit comes under a basic package but other appointments, such as to the physiotherapist or dentist, will either be paid out-of-pocket or with a supplemental health insurance policy. Falling numbers of people in the Netherlands are using this type of insurance policy; in 2006 around 93% of people had a supplemental policy but it’s now fallen to 84%.

Numbers Of Expat Diabetics In Dubai Revealed

Health authorities in Dubai say that 14.6% of the expat population there are diabetic, compared with 19% of citizens. They add that one in two expat adults with diabetes is undiagnosed.The research is aimed at identifying expats who are undiagnosed and prediabetic with the aim of creating a preventative programme.

Dubai says its aim is to reduce the number of people with diabetes and encouraging people to change their lifestyle. However, the research coincides with news that nearly 39 million adults who are aged between 20 years and 79 years in the Middle East and North Africa are currently diabetic. By 2045, experts say the numbers will rocket by 111%.

Cricketers Highlight India's Smog Problems

While expats heading to Delhi may be offered extra money to deal with toxic air levels, along with masks, the plight of Indian and Sri Lankan test cricketers highlighted the problem to the wider world recently.

Players took to the field wearing masks to help protect themselves from toxic air, and in the game between India and Sri Lanka, at least two players were violently ill on the field.

During the two-day match, play was halted on three occasions because conditions became so bad. Now India’s cricket board says smog will be taken into account when scheduling matches.

Free Medical Camp For Expats

More than 5,000 expats have benefited from a free medical camp staged in Qatar. Most of the expats who attended were on low incomes; they enjoyed consultations with doctors as well as free medicines, diagnosis and information about health awareness programmes.

It is the 16th free medical camp staged in the country, with many attendees hailing from India and Pakistan as well as Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. They were screened for blood pressure, glaucoma and blood sugar, among several issues. Also, many of the expats visiting the camp offered to donate blood for Qatar in a mobile blood bank unit.

In Other Healthcare News

The award for best international private health insurance provider has been picked up by the AXA-Global Healthcare team for the second year running. The presentation was made at the International Fund and Product Awards.

International Medical Group has opened an office in Dubai to help boost its iPMI operations in the Gulf region.

A report from Mercer Marsh Benefits aims to help expats and their employers in Singapore balance growing medical costs with potential alternatives. The report highlights that ‘ward type plans’ and group policies along with employers altering their medical offering to employees can help bring costs down.

A new international health insurance product for non-US based employers with staff in the US has been unveiled by Aetna International. The ‘Access US’ offering is compliant with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and offers nine different plans for staff.

Healthcare firm Care Plus has unveiled an international private medical insurance offering in Brazil. The Master International policy helps employers offer healthcare to their employees around the world.

Aetna International is calling on healthcare insurers and providers to help reduce inflating medical costs by switching to a value-based care system. With medical costs rising by 11% this year and a rapidly ageing population, healthcare systems will struggle to deal with growing cases of lifestyle diseases such as cancer and diabetes. Instead, Aetna says health care providers should consider being paid on patient health outcomes to help contain costs.

Apollo Munich health insurers, an India-based provider, has announced a new insurance plan called Health Wallet. The new offering helps deal with out-of-pocket expenses and expensive renewals by offering the insured person a hefty discount on their renewal premium.

Employee benefits provider MetLife says that the benefits market, including the provision of well-being and healthcare, is set to grow substantially. They say that the benefits which employees can enjoy need to be better communicated by their employers with increased productivity a result.

Healix Health Services has unveiled a 24/7 virtual GP service for all the healthcare schemes it runs. The app, TrustDoc24, offers unlimited advice and diagnosis.

Allianz Partners has announced the addition of new assistance and security benefits to its members. The health insurance plans are now offering travel and security services and also expat assistance so members can enjoy access to a security assistance hotline to learn about security advice in countries around the world. There will also be travel safety alerts and daily security news.

Expats and Australians will be able to access a new budget health insurance offering from Kogan Health in Australia. The online retailer says it is working with private health insurance firm Medibank Group to deliver the insurance plans which offer better value to the public.

Popular health insurance firm Pacific Prime has announced its first office in Dubai. The office is now open with more than 100 staff providing sales, support and administrative services to businesses, families and organisations looking for DHA compliant health insurance plans and other health insurance policies.


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