Expat Focus International Healthcare Update June 2017
Growing mental health issues for expats
A survey by Aetna International has revealed there’s a growing problem for the mental health issues of expats working overseas.
The firm says there’s been a sharp increase globally of 28% in claims for help with mental health issues in Europe, Africa, the Middle East as well as the Americas and Southeast Asia.The highest growth was seen in Europe with 33%, in the Middle East and North Africa it was 28% and for the Americas it was 26%.
The growth in mental health claims for expats in south east Asia rose by 19%.
While the rapid growth in these claims may be a cause for concern, Aetna’s medical director Dr Mitesh Patel says the trend is a positive sign.
He explained that in encouraging claims for treatment, the issue of mental health is now being widely accepted compared to five or 10 years ago.
In addition, employers are becoming increasingly aware of problems and are offering more support.
Dr Patel added: “For those employers who are sending employees on international assignments, they should have screening, pre-trip planning and an orientation process in place to ensure employees are suited to the challenges.”
Health cover for Brexit firms
A new international health insurance plan aimed at the UK’s small businesses with expat and ‘inpat’ employees has been unveiled.
The move from Allianz Worldwide Care sees firms able to offer modular health insurance policies to their employees when the time for doing so becomes crucial.
The insurer says that while the implications for Brexit are still unknown, their new health insurance product would meet the needs of UK businesses should the UK leave the European Union without existing reciprocal healthcare rights being protected.
That’s because British citizens can access healthcare while in the European Union using their European health insurance card (EHIC) as EU nationals can do in the UK. It is expected that the EHIC card scheme will come to an end.
A spokesman for the insurance firm said: “Sending employees overseas is a complicated business especially for small businesses that do not have the luxury of a dedicated resource to address and investigate every element.
“Having easy access to well-being and health support for the expat and their families is one issue they do not have to worry about.”
Expats’ health insurance fees to rise
Kuwait’s Ministry of Health has raised the possibility that expats in the country may have to pay more for their health insurance.
The fee increases will be gradual and will be imposed on visitors and then on expats; the move to make visitors have mandatory health insurance cover has been endorsed by the government.
The Ministry of Health says that a health insurance fee rise is ‘inevitable’.
The move follows growing pressure on the country’s budget with increasing costs of equipment and medicines while medical fees have remained static.
Cover for expats in an unpredictable world
Expats who travel extensively can access a new Crisis Assistance Plus (CAP) offering from Cigna as part of their suite of healthcare products.
The aim is to offer a comprehensive assistance programme around the world to help employers respond to the growing and unique needs of the firm’s expat staff.
The policy will help deliver peace of mind by offering advice and coordinated help for an expat while they are on assignment. There’s also a political evacuation service should an expat’s safety be jeopardised.
The policy will also see experienced security personnel being deployed for rescuing expats ‘in the field’ and offering shelter and ground evacuations; there is also help for the expat’s family under the policy.
The aim is to cover everything from acts of terrorism to natural disasters including earthquakes and hurricanes.
A spokesman for Cigna said: “Security threats are, now more than ever, a concern for global travellers and CAP enables us to help our customers with a comprehensive global health benefits which include peace of mind.”
Meanwhile, Cigna has opened a regional office for the North Africa and the Middle East region in Dubai in a bid to boost its customer base in the lucrative MENA marketplace. The healthcare firm says its products are aimed at expats and local people alike there which will be easier to access.
Global expat offering unveiled
Aetna International has unveiled its ‘vHealth’ scheme in India which is the first country to use it before a worldwide rollout.
The aim is to have 4 million members signed up over the next three years and vHealth will help reduce the need for Aetna’s members to visit hospital by 47%.
The service has a cheap subscription model and offers members access to doctors via telecommunications.
The system will be launched in key markets including the UK, Singapore and UAE later this year.
A spokeswoman for Aetna said: “Healthcare can appear to be hard to navigate and complex but vHealth can be a partner for managing a family’s health with doctors that are trained to Swiss telemedicine standards. They will also follow robust clinical protocols for an unparalleled service.”
Expats in Ireland warned over health cover
A survey in Ireland has warned that two in every five citizens and expats who have private health insurance are probably on overpriced and outdated plans.
The findings from Totalhealthcover found that most of these people are aged over 60.
They said that the customers have a misguided loyalty to health insurance firms and fear change.
This means they are overpaying by around €1,000, that’s up to 57% more than people in other age groups pay, and they are less likely to be aware of cheaper value plans.
Best destinations for expat retirees
A survey from International Living says that expat retirees, particularly those from the US, who are struggling to pay for their health insurance coverage can get fully insured for just $80 a month in some countries.
The survey follows a report from accountancy firm PwC, who revealed that medical costs in the US are set to rise by 6.5% this year.
Another recent survey also highlighted that the amount people pay in out-of-pocket medical expenses in the US is one of the big reasons for Americans to go into debt.
Now the survey has shown there are five countries where expats can get full health insurance cover from $80 and a specialist visit can cost just $30.
The countries include Costa Rica, Columbia, Mexico, Panama and Malaysia.
Help to cut healthcare costs in UAE
Expats and their employers in the UAE worried about fast rising health insurance premiums have been offered help and advice from one news outlet that may help reduce their costs.
They also say that for employers reducing benefit packages may be a false economy, since improving a benefits package would encourage staff to remain with their employer.
Among the tips being offered is for employers to help their employees use their health insurance responsibly since this will have an impact on how much an insurer will charge the employer at renewal time.
Indeed, employers should get a detailed breakdown of any health insurance claim made by a staff member and they should do this on a quarterly basis.
Some health providers in the UAE have been investing in technology that monitors claims management so they can crack down on abuse and overuse claims.
This will help the employer spot any patterns of behaviour that could lead to increasing premiums.
Employers should also urge employees to understand that growing health premium costs will have an impact on profitability and competitiveness.
Employers should also urge their staff not to use emergency rooms as a source for primary care and should always visit their GP first.
In addition, employees should use a virtual doctor service whenever possible and ask for generic drugs that are being prescribed.
On top of this, employers should make use of wellness training so they help employees adapt healthy lifestyles which will, over the long-term, have a big effect on lowering healthcare premiums.
In other healthcare news…
Employers in Dubai are being warned they could face financial penalties if they miss a health insurance renewal deadline for staff. Expats working in the country now have mandatory health insurance and the deadline for all employees having this place was June last year – failure to renew could see gaps in cover and the employer facing the risk of fines.
Employers in Spain with expats working overseas now have the choice of accessing a new flagship international health insurance plan from Generali Global Health. The UK-based insurer is teaming up with a sister Spanish company to deliver products and healthcare services to expats with Spanish employers.
Expats who are signed up with Columbus Direct will now be able to access a doctor via video telephone wherever they are in the world and at any time. The service is being offered by Collinson Group who have boosted their portfolio offering after teaming-up with digital health specialists babylon.
The number of US citizens and expats in the country without health insurance has risen slightly in the first three months of 2017 to 11.3%. The Affordable Care Act requires Americans to find health insurance cover or pay a tax penalty, though the IRS has been told not pursue those who do not buy health insurance.
A new report has highlighted that expats and employers are likely to be paying more for health insurance cover in the years to come. The findings from Willis Towers Watson looked at global medical trends in 79 countries and found that the basic costs are increasing which will push up bills by 7.8% this year.
International Medical Group has been bought by Sirius International Insurance Group as part of the firm’s long-term aim of boosting their worldwide accident and health service provision.
Health insurance coverage by citizens and expats is growing in popularity in the Middle East, according to research. Along with the growth in mandatory health insurance schemes for some countries, the key players, including BUPA Arabia, offer clients exceptional levels of service with Saudi Arabia and the UAE having the fastest growing markets, says a report.
The MetLife Expatriate Benefits business has rebranded as MetLife Worldwide Benefits. Metlife says the change better represents their international offering.
Critics in Oman say expats are being punished when they lose employer-provided healthcare benefits by having to pay cash when visiting hospitals for treatment. However, they are being charged more for doing so. The government says it is now investigating the discrepancy in the charges being made to expats.
Pacific Prime China has unveiled a new healthcare product aimed at the international student market. The product, StudentCare Exclusive, is aimed primarily at Chinese students heading to the US for their studies and is the first health insurance product of its kind to be available outside of the US.
Canada’s Istuary Innovation Group says it has teamed up with a digital start-up to offer clients access to healthcare benefits from their mobile phone. The insurer says the new seamless platform will boost choice for their users.
The Thai Health Reform Foundation is urging the government to force the country’s public hospitals to sell health insurance to all expat workers to help tackle the growing financial deficit the healthcare industry is facing in treating migrant workers.
A report in the Marketing Science Journal reveals that generous health insurance plans may not improve health but may encourage over treatment. Those plans with low deductibles encourage people with chronic conditions to utilise expensive treatments that have little impact on their health.
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