Expat Focus International Healthcare Update June 2019

Expat men are worried about their healthcare

Since moving overseas, four in five male expats say they have had to access healthcare, research has revealed. The findings from AXA-Global Healthcare highlights that 84% of male expats living overseas have used local health services.The survey also highlights that 72% say they have concerns about the healthcare provision in their new country. Also, 65% of respondents said they would consider traveling home for medical treatment. 26% of male expats expressed worries about the quality of medical care they will receive while overseas and the same number worried about the cost of treatment.

AXA’s chief customer officer, Andy Edwards, said:

"While starting a new life abroad can be exciting, getting ill can be daunting in an unfamiliar environment. It's vital that anyone considering living abroad takes time to research local healthcare facilities and to consider options like booking a health check before relocating to highlight potential issues that they need to be aware of before leaving."

The research also reveals that male expat worries will vary in different countries, with 94% of men in Hong Kong saying they are worried about local healthcare provision, which compares to 84% in the UAE, 76% in France and 65% in Canada. For the UK, the figure is 64% of male expats.

Worker well-being may struggle when settling overseas

One expat healthcare provider says that expats who are moving overseas say that accessing quality healthcare is important for them and their families.

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Aetna International says that along with the challenge for an expat to settle into their new country, finding a support network and ensuring that their family members are being supported, the move could have an impact on their well-being and performance.

A survey they carried out reveals that 75% of women said that the struggles of settling into a new role while overseas lead to a negative effect on their health and well-being. The figure for men who said this was 18%.

The expat respondents said that the happiness of their children had a significant impact on their own well-being, with 77% saying that having to settle their children was a hurdle. Also, 39% said that their children’s education was the biggest positive impact on their well-being.

The survey also highlights that for 63% of expats working overseas, finding a sense of community was a challenge and 41% said it could take up to six months before they felt part of their local community.

The president of Aetna, Richard di Benedetto, said that as the globally mobile population grows, it is crucial for employers to appreciate the challenges that their employees face – and their loved ones. He said that businesses are responsible for ‘providing adequate care for their employee’s emotional and physical well-being’.

Meanwhile, a separate survey by Aetna International has revealed that 78% of expats living overseas are likely to use a virtual health service.
Expats in Singapore, India and the UAE are among those most likely to use the services than in any other country. Also, expats aged between 30 and 49 are more likely to use a virtual health offering than expats aged over 50.

Hurricane season warning

The world’s leading security risk and medical services company, International SOS, is warning organisations and their travelling staff members to prepare for extreme weather conditions as the US hurricane season begins.

The firm says that the Atlantic will see similar storm patterns that were experienced in previous years after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) published its latest report. The NOAA is forecasting a 40% chance of a normal season and a 30% chance of this year being an ‘above normal’ season.

The senior vice president at International SOS, Dr Robert Quigley, said:

"The hurricane season begins in June and ends in November. On average, we see about 12 named storms per season with six of these being hurricanes. Of these, we expect three of them to be major storms."

Expats and visitors need mandatory healthcare in South Korea

Travellers and expats moving to South Korea will need mandatory health insurance as the country moves to prevent people from accessing expensive medical treatments and then leaving without paying. The new system starts on 16 July, with the average health insurance premium being $94 (£75).

Expats unable to pay the premium will have restricted access to benefits and the likelihood that their visa will not be extended. However, the category of those most likely to be affected is the growing number of international students in universities.

Campaigners against the mandatory health cover introduction also warn that ‘many expats’ cannot enrol onto the national health insurance scheme because their employers are not officially registered as businesses.

International telehealth offering expands

The international telehealth offering for expats using the services of International SOS, a security risk and medical management firm, will now see the offering becoming available in France.

There are 16 countries currently that customers have online access to a health provider so they can access quickly local care and advice and to understand the local health environment. The firm says:

“Online consultation is becoming popular with expats increasingly keen to access appropriate and efficient medical care wherever they are travelling.”

Aetna introduces DNA testing

Healthcare benefits provider Aetna International has revealed that it is introducing DNA testing to help their members take more control of their health. The test will be an optional part of their wellness plans looking at lifestyle and health issues, including fitness, stress and sleep.

The senior vice president of customer proposition, Caroline Pain, said:

"We are seeing people increasingly take a proactive approach to their health and it's possible to take a targeted approach to holistic well-being and predictive and hyper personalised healthcare. By introducing DNA testing, we are ensuring members have an opportunity of taking advantage of these advances and combine awareness of their genetics with social additional support to change their behaviours for the better."

The test will see a swab sent to a UK lab for analysis with members being notified by email of their results.

Expat burnout is a ‘disease’


Hard-working expats around the world may be interested to know that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has now officially added burnout to the international classification of diseases.

The organisation says that anyone who feels emotionally drained or mentally exhausted is suffering from burnout.

From 2022, the issue will be recognised as a disease which will enable healthcare insurers and providers to track and offer cover to treat the symptoms. The WHO has defined burnout as being ‘a chronic workplace stress that is not being successfully managed’.

Push for expat retires to have health insurance

Healthcare insurance brokers in Thailand are pushing for the government to recognise a need for all expat retirees in the country to have healthcare coverage.

In addition, they say the policies should be valid worldwide and the move follows a debacle over whether expats living in Thailand need mandatory health insurance.

When first announced, there was confusion about which expats living in the country needed coverage – though it was clarified that expats on retirement visas, known as a Non-immigrant O-A visa, currently do not need mandatory healthcare coverage, whereas other expats do.

Meanwhile, the US embassy in Bangkok has issued a warning to American expats who are living, working or travelling in the country. They say their citizens should have medical coverage if they intend remaining in Thailand for a long time, particularly if they are retired.

The embassy says expats should have proper healthcare coverage while in the country and that their US-based Medicare coverage cannot pick up any of their healthcare bills while in Thailand.

Data sharing hampers access to healthcare

The European Court of Auditors says Europeans and expats working in the European Union are being denied access to cross-border healthcare. They say there is a seven-year delay in sharing health data.

The news comes after a 2011 EU directive was announced with the aim of giving citizens access to healthcare across national borders within the European Union

EU expats and citizens could, in theory, travel to another country for treatment and then claim reimbursement for any treatment they received to which they are entitled to in their own country.

In other healthcare news…

A ‘State of Health Insurance’ report has been published by Pacific Prime, the global employee benefits provider, offering a snapshot of global changes and trends. The firm reports issues with growing regulation, the rise of flexible employee benefits and growing premium inflation. Also, clients are demanding simpler healthcare products and insurers are taking more time to ensure that clients are informed about their policies.

The expat clients of health insurance firm Lockton will be able to access the employee experience platform OneHub which is provided by Benefex. The online system makes it easier for clients to see what their benefit schemes are and help deliver positive interactions between employer and employee.

April International has revealed that it is expanding the outpatient direct billing network that clients can access to cover new country additions, Vietnam and Indonesia. The system enables eligible clients to show an e-card or a traditional international card to a hospital or clinic. The bill is then settled directly by April so clients no longer need to worry about paying fees or sending in paperwork.

Collinson has unveiled a partnership with the travel risk and incident prevention group TRIP, which will offer best practice solutions to help educate employers to fulfil their duty of care by keeping their international travelling employees secure, healthy and safe. Collinson will share its global security and medical expertise through Trip’s dedicated learning forums for its travel risk community. There are more than 150 member organisations, including multinational employers and universities.

An improvement in customer service has been unveiled by AXA UK who says it has transformed its claims operation. The new structure offers a clearer focus for customers and greater accountability to deliver a better health claims experience and customer service.

Allianz Global Assistance has picked up two prestigious international customer service awards, known as Stevies. The 17th American business awards in New York saw the firm receive a silver Stevie for its customer services and a bronze Stevie for the customer service team of the year.

Healix International’s US division has won international healthcare and risk management provider of the year at an awards ceremony in Dallas for its work in the EMEA region. The Forum for Expatriates’ Management recognised the global offering of their quality services that are delivered competently.

Lufthansa is the world’s first airline to equip all of its aircraft with a mobile electrocardiogram (ECG) system. The German airline will see flight attendants dealing with emergencies on board with the ECG results been transmitted to parties on the ground. Lufthansa says that one of the most common medical incidents occurring on flights is cardiovascular complaints.

The Gibraltar-based healthcare provider Lamp Insurance Company has announced that it is insolvent and unable to pay any claims from clients. The firm offers expat and local health insurance products to policyholders in the UK, Asia and Europe, offering access to international treatment.

Expats in Hong Kong are being warned that while private health cover is surging, growing fears over poor coverage and worries over disputed claims has seen many policyholders seeking treatment at public hospitals. The hospitals are overstretched with increasing demand and an ageing population, the Consumer Council study says. Their figures show that 40% of those being treated in public hospitals have private health insurance in place.

The Omani government has revealed that expats working in nine occupations in the healthcare sector will be replaced by Omanis. The first citizens have now been hired to work in respiratory therapy and radiography among them. The Omanisation project has already seen 200 expat nurses being replaced by locals this year and 600 nurses have been replaced in two years.

BUPA has unveiled plans to provide full mental health cover to policyholders and time limits will be removed. They are now the only insurer covering all mental health conditions including addictions.


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