Expat Focus International Healthcare Update July 2018

Female business travellers at higher risk

Travel organisers believe that women business travellers are at greater risk than men when travelling overseas, according to research.

The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) says that 69% of travel organisers in the US believe there is a safety risk to women travelling overseas and 61% say employers need to consider a risk management programme for their female employees when they are on business.The respondents say that their top concerns for women business travellers are when travelling to some countries and cities where they may be at risk from kidnapping, assault or sexual harassment.

The GBTA’s president, Christle Johnson, said:

“While the research highlights that travel buyers are concerned for female business travellers and their safety, just 18% of travel policies will specifically address female safety.

With women making up an ever increasing amount of the business traveller population, we need to do more as an industry to ensure the safety of women travelling.”

One travel firm that helped with the research says the study should help raise awareness of potential risks and employers need to be aware of protecting their female employees overseas.

Global medical costs are rocketing

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Employers need to integrate wellbeing and health strategies, along with better digital capabilities, to help manage their rising workforce healthcare costs.

The advice follows research from Mercer Marsh Benefits and highlights the cost of medical plans are growing at three times the rate of inflation.

The survey of medical trends around the world looked at 62 countries and 225 insurers with just 14% of employers offering preventative lifestyle programmes for their staff.

Also, despite the issue of mental health now becoming more prevalent – it is now cited as the third highest risk factor among staff – 40% of employee medical plans offer no access to counselling.

A senior partner with Mercer Marsh Benefits, John Deegan, said:

“As healthcare costs increase, employers are questioning the design and intent of programmes and progressive employers are redefining the benefit and health principles and questioning traditional medical insurance design.”

He added that there is a revolution towards benefit-based healthcare with providers paying on outcomes instead of services. The firm is also predicting big changes for health insurance cover around the world, with insurers using patient data effectively to help address the needs of employers and employees alike with an affordable, quality based healthcare offering.

Unmanageable stress is affecting staff in the UK

A global survey from Cigna has highlighted that the number one well-being issue for staff in the UK is stress.

The firm’s 360° WellBeing Survey looked at wellbeing in 23 countries and found the UK is looking at ‘a mental health timebomb’ with 84% of respondents saying they’ve suffered a mental health condition, but just 45% say their employer had offered help.

Of all developed Western countries, the UK ranks lowest for unmanageable stress with one in five employees suffering which places the country behind the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Australia. The survey highlights that 87% of workers in the country surveyed suffer with stress. 72% say it is manageable but 15% say it’s not manageable.

Integra Global boosts health offering

International health insurance provider Integra Global has boosted its worldwide offering. The firm is now offering expats looking for healthcare insurance the ability to cover pre-existing conditions and all policy holders will now enjoy life coverage.

There’s also a simplified underwriting process for groups and individuals with a new life cover element offering US$5,000 (£3,770) as a minimum.

The firm’s managing director, Philip Catterton, said: “The new offering enables employees to confidently and effortlessly enrol their staff without medical underwriting concerns.”

The firm says it is boosting its international health plans by forming several new partnerships which will deliver improved networks. Integra says it will now be able to offer health coverage to expats in a wider range of countries around the world.

US health premiums double those in the UK

The amount of money being spent on private healthcare has wide variations, recording to a survey from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The organisation looked at 35 countries and found Norway has the best healthcare offering, with one doctor for every 45 residents. The highest density of doctors is found in Switzerland, with many Swiss having to pay for private health cover for the privilege.

The shortest waiting lists in Europe are in Denmark, with the US being the only member of the OECD not to offer its citizens free access to healthcare.

However, healthcare insurance premiums in the US are the highest of the countries surveyed, with an average cost of $9,892 (£7,456) – that’s double the price being paid in Japan and the UK, and there’s only one doctor for every 118 residents in the US.

Hong Kong unveils new private health scheme

Hong Kong has unveiled a voluntary insurance scheme that will help people living there benefit with access to private hospitals. The Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme will see citizens and expats enjoy a HK$8,000 (£768/$1,020) tax break if they sign up.

Previously, high premiums and high risk individuals being excluded has meant a relatively low uptake of health insurance in Hong Kong. Now lawmakers say that around 1 million people will sign up to the insurance scheme in the first two years, and over the following years this will rise to 1.5 million people.

Around 47% of Hong Kong’s population has health insurance coverage, which is around 3.26 million people, though critics say the scheme is aimed at expats and wealthy individuals living in the city to avoid congested public hospitals.

Meanwhile, AXA says it is boosting the number of healthcare plans available for people living in Hong Kong. The insurer says it is spending HK$200 million (£19.2m/$25.5m) on developing the technology to helps sales and help the insurer reach younger consumers with a healthcare offering tailored to their needs.

Multinationals warned over round-the-clock working

A global survey of employees has found that round-the-clock working is a false economy for multinationals.

The Global Benefits Forum survey, conducted by insurance broker Lockton, found that 74% of multinational employers have a contractual stipulation that employees should be available outside of normal office working hours.

However, 26% of their employees say this obligation has a negative impact on their mental wellbeing.

Also, 80% of employers said that working longer hours has no effect on productivity, but 20% of employees thought otherwise. The senior vice president of international benefits, Chris Rofe, warns that many multinational employees are failing to acknowledge one of the biggest risks to their employees’ wellbeing and health despite spending millions on initiatives.

“It doesn't make sense and leaves employees performing less well or at risk of burning out altogether. Employers need to ensure their employees have appropriate down time to re-energise and recharge.”

Expats in Oman to get health cover

Expats living and working in Oman will soon be offered mandatory health insurance coverage from their employers. The announcement comes from the Omani government, which is currently drafting plans for the rolling out of health insurance coverage, which will be mandatory for all citizens and residents in the country.

The government says it will limit the potential high costs to employees in the private sector. This follows the initial announcement last September to introduce compulsory health insurance.

Fears over expats not renewing health policies

A call has been made for authorities to intervene to ensure that residents who live in Kuwait on a two-year visa renew their medical insurance cover after their first year in the country.

Media sources there say that since the beginning of the year, around half of the one-year policies issued have not been renewed, with fears growing that a large number of expats and their dependents are opting to go without proper health cover in the second year of their residency.

Meanwhile, Kuwait’s Ministry of Health has announced that it’s extending the contract it has with the firm that delivers health insurance for expats for an additional six months. Health insurance for expats and their dependents is now mandatory in Kuwait.

In other news…

The government in Niger says it will establish a contributory social health insurance programme to deliver quality and affordable healthcare services to expats and citizens in the country.

Expats and citizens in South Africa are overpaying for their healthcare because there’s limited competition in the country, according to a watchdog. Costs are also boosted, with patients being prescribed treatments they often don’t need.

Unhealthy expats have been prevented from entering Kuwait to take up work, official figures reveal. The medical examination of 913,000 expats from nine countries between 2015 and 2018 saw 0.06% being refused entry. The reasons include suffering with AIDS, TB, hepatitis and syphilis. Dozens of expats also had other infectious diseases.

International students heading to Ireland could soon be paying more for their private health insurance cover, depending on the outcome of an High Court case there. The Health Insurance Authority is hoping to win its case that for any student who studies in the country for more than a year will need to take out a more expensive health insurance policy to remain eligible for the student visa.

Employers with staff working overseas may be interested in a new terrorism insurance offering from Chubb, Aon and Lloyds which will deal with terrorism and political violence that may affect staff in turbulent countries. The aim of their Platinum product is to help multinationals navigate the complex regulations of sending staff to unstable countries and then dealing with violent political instability and terrorist actions.

Prudential Hong Kong has revealed that it has boosted its digital capabilities to help claimants deal with a paperless and streamlined hospital claims process. The move will transform the way in which healthcare claims are dealt with and also uses artificial intelligence chatbots to help clients deal with issues and questions.

Brits and expats working in the UK could be missing out on private medical insurance because they believe it costs twice as much as it really does, a survey reveals. ActiveQuote says 73% of those they questioned thought the cost was double the actual £40 cost per month cost for offering healthcare cover for a family of four.

The travel and integrated risk management company, iJet International, has revealed that it has rebranded as WorldAware. The move follows a recent acquisition of crisis management firms Prescient Traveller and red24.

According to Endsleigh, a UK insurance firm, the riskiest destination in the world for making claims is Thailand. They say medical expenses are the most common type of claim from the country, with adventure sports being cited as the most frequent reason travellers get into trouble. The top five of risky countries includes Chile, the US, Spain and Germany.

Bupa has unveiled a tie-up with digital health start-up Babylon Health UK. The move will see Bupa offering online GP consultations and a clinical triage service. The founder of Babylon, Ali Parsa, says the partnership will be ‘one of a kind’ and there’s no other similar digital health offering available.

Expats working in the USA may benefit from a plan to help make health insurance policies cheaper for smaller employers. The move will see small businesses and the self-employed join together to buy health insurance depending on their location and industry. The health plans will be regulated in the same way as they are for larger employer policies.

Japan has announced that it is probing the extent of expats exploiting the country’s public health system. The inquiry will address issues of expats apparently joining a public insurance scheme illegally in a bid to avoid hefty medical fees. Growing numbers of expats are working in Japan and the public health system was not designed for large numbers of expats receiving medical services – and with predictions of a surge in foreign workers being predicted means the government is planning on pre-emptive action. All expats must sign up with a health insurance plan provided by employers which also covers dependents or join a national scheme at their local municipal offices.


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