Expat Focus International Healthcare Update November 2017

Employers 'Must Do More' To Protect Traveling Staff

With authorities around the world stepping up their advice to travellers in the face of the growing threat from terror attacks, employers are being told they must do more to protect their staff.

Independent advisors the Health Insurance Group (HIG) say that employers should help their staff feel better prepared and protected should they be involved in an emergency, wherever they are living and working in the world. The call comes after research from Concur found that 53 percent of business travellers who were questioned said they had been close to a major incident and 41 percent of those workers said their employer had not contacted them.HIG says this level of response raises concerns over whether employers are committed to their duty of care. The firm says employees need to be better prepared for all types of incidents before heading off on an international assignment. Sarah Dennis, HIG’s head of international, said: “Employers need to be better prepared and have appropriate cover to help them meet their duty of care wherever staff are working. Situations can change rapidly and without warning if a natural disaster or a political situation strikes.”

The firm also highlights a survey from travel organisation ABTA, which revealed that half of travel managers said they had staff who had experienced at least one issue over the past year, with extreme weather and natural disasters among the most common reported. HIG says employers should keep their overseas staff up-to-date with warnings from the UK’s foreign and commonwealth office, and have evacuation policies and relevant insurance coverage in place.

Interactive Risk Map For Expats

A popular risk travel map aimed at expats and globally mobile employees has been updated to show whether a trip or stay overseas will be a safe one. This interactive map has been created by International SOS and Control Risks, who have revised the map’s risk ratings and added social sharing capabilities.

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The travel risk map is now colour-coded to reveal high-risk areas and has more information for searching a specific location. A survey found that 63 percent of firms say that travel risks have increased for their overseas staff in the past year, but only 9 percent have updated their travel risk policies in response.

Despite this lack of action, growing numbers of employers are looking to implement ‘risk mitigation techniques,’ including pre-trip and during-trip emails to ensure the safety of their overseas staff. Dr Doug Quarry, International SOS’s group medical director, said: “It’s promising that risk mitigation techniques, including annual health check-ups, are being prioritised, as these can be key to spotting potential health issues that need to be managed. It’s important that organizations promote a healthy, safe and well workforce which will help strengthen and support business resilience.”

NHS Warning Over Brexit

A charity is warning that a Brexit ‘no deal’ would damage an overstretched NHS. The Nuffield Trust says that a failure to guarantee EU staff rights and a lack of ability to secure medical equipment and new drugs could see costs soar. A report from the Nuffield Trust says there could be in exodus of EU workers if their rights are not protected. Official figures have already revealed that the number of EU nurses registering in the UK for work has fallen by 96 percent since the referendum vote. Vital funding into health research could also be affected by a ‘no deal’.

The report also highlights that a no deal scenario could lead to expat pensioners who currently enjoy health care under an EU scheme being forced to return for medical treatment in the UK, which could lead to £500 million more being spent every year.

Meanwhile, it’s been revealed that the number of patients leaving the UK and heading overseas for medical treatment has trebled, as waiting times under the NHS reach a record high. Government data shows that nearly 144,000 people last year headed abroad, up from 2014’s figure of 48,000 people. News of an increase in waiting list times coincides with a crackdown in the UK on ‘health tourists,’ with hospital staff now asking patients for bank statements and utility bills to prove their identity. Those who are from overseas will need to pay for NHS treatment.

Kuwait Health Fees Rise

Health insurance fees for expats in Kuwait have increased to KD130 (£325/$430) from KD50. This news comes after work on a new hospital exclusively for expats was started, with the new annual fees coming into effect from 2018. Kuwait’s health authority says the insurance fees increase has come after careful consideration of other medical systems in GCC states.

Authorities say that more than 2 million expats working in the country’s private sector, along with their families, will benefit from improved health services. Kuwait has also announced an increase in dental care fees, with each visit now costing KD2 (£5/$6.61).

Further, Kuwait University says its expat lecturers should not have to pay the new medical service fees, since many staff members will demand contract amendments to help compensate for their extra financial outgoings. Their contracts currently stipulate that they are eligible to receive free medical care.

Bahrain Privatises Check-Ups

Meanwhile, authorities in Bahrain have announced that they have privatised the country’s medical check-ups for expats, and that a fixed fee for this of BD20 (£40/$53) is being imposed. Expats can choose any private healthcare facility once they have paid their fee. The government says this move will make it easier and quicker for employers to hire expat employees.

Business Travel Risks

Employers are increasingly having to face increased health and safety concerns as well as security risks for their expat employees and globally mobile executives, says a new report. The report, from the Federation of Risk Management (FERMA), KPMG and International SOS Foundation highlights that increasing globalisation for international employers is seeing a risk manager’s job becoming increasingly complex.

The number one risk for global mobile workers is cyber security, followed by mental health issues. According to the report, 67 percent of organizations say that over the last two years, their exposure to the health and safety and security risks over worker mobility has increased.

Marc Burrows, KPMG’s head of global mobility services, said: “Expanding geographies with developing world expectations around risk management and compliance, particularly in emerging markets, is creating a need for a different approach to global mobility.”

Lauren Fourier, executive director of International SOS Foundation, added: “Organisations are facing an increasingly complex and challenging world of international and domestic pressures along with a rapid growth of their mobile workforce. We know organisations want to make a difference to their mobile workforce lives and their commitment to duty of care.”

The report also offers organisations with international employees a list of tips for best practice, including managing travel risks and improving communications.

Increased Treatment For Expats In Switzerland

Expats living in Switzerland will be able to access medical treatment in countries that border some Cantons from next year, under their basic health insurance provision. The country’s federal council has changed the rules to boost international collaboration. One newspaper reported that 30,000 people in the country are not paying mandatory health insurance premiums and have been blacklisted as a result, but can still access emergency treatment. The newspaper reports a growing trend for people in Switzerland to find the cost of health insurance prohibitive.

Meanwhile, international private health insurance provider Allianz has unveiled a range of insurance plans for expats in Switzerland, in partnership with local providers. The firm says its new Suisse International Healthcare Plan will help provide expats in the country with a one-stop shop for all their health insurance needs.

Health And Happiness Vital For Employees

Global employers are increasingly moving away from traditional reward strategies by looking to introduce experiences that impact their employees’ well-being. The global employee benefits report from Thomsons Online reveals that organizations with international employees are 60 percent more likely to have well-being initiatives in place.

The report says this will put those companies at a clear advantage when engaging and offering their staff more, since workers now look for a higher quality of life rather than just earning more money. Thomsons adds that international employers are also looking increasingly to care for their employees’ families and provide better engagement to improve their health and well-being also.

Head of data at Thomsons Online, Matthew Gregson, said: “Global economies becoming more fluid means evolution is driving fundamental shifts in the employee-employer relationship. Employees are looking for their employer to make their day-to-day lives better, which means that HR teams need to spend time on driving culture, well-being and engagement.”

In Other News

AXA-Global Healthcare has unveiled a suite of international health insurance products for expats. This is in preparation for meeting ‘fresh challenges’ in the marketplace.

There is a chronic shortage of nurses in the United States, particularly for rural communities, with many hospitals looking to recruit expat nurses. However, their efforts have been undermined by difficulties in accessing work visas. Legislation is now being proposed that would allow 8,000 expat nurses to access work visas quickly, helping alleviate the shortage.

Expats in the US will be aware that the average increase for health insurance premiums is around 34 percent. There are growing fears that the entire system will implode, with steep price hikes facing expats living and working there. In some parts of the country, expats and citizens are unable to access ‘Obamacare’ at all.

April International has unveiled a campaign highlighting to parents of international students that a health insurance plan for their child’s stay overseas is important. They point out that a private healthcare option will be a sound move should their offspring suffer illness or unexpected injury while college or university.

A tax hike in the UK has led to a slowdown in the country’s private health insurance market, say providers. The government has now doubled the insurance premium tax from 6 to 12 percent over the last two years.

The international private medical insurance provider International Medical Group has opened its first office in Dubai after receiving its consultancy licence. The firm has been active in the region for the last 10 years, offering IPMI solutions. The new licence means they can better serve international customers as well as expats working and living in the UAE.

A new hospital indemnity protection plan has been unveiled by UnitedHealthcare, which will mean employers can help protect their staff with a cash benefit that will pay for their employees’ out-of-pocket medical expenses in 45 US states. The coverage also extends to family members.

For the fifth year running, Aetna International has been voted winner of the best group international private medical insurance provider by brokers at the Health Insurance Awards.

International construction firm Mace has held a global well-being week for more than 5,000 employees working in 40 operations and 12 countries. There is a growing trend for international employers to hold events such as these, with activities including learning, exercise classes as well as body fat analysis and blood-pressure tests.

Spain’s foreign minister Alfonso Dastis has reassured the 300,000 British expats in the country that they will be welcome after the UK leaves the EU, and that the two governments are working towards an agreement that will see those expats continuing to enjoy free healthcare.

Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai has celebrated its tenth anniversary, and been described as a ‘blueprint’ for international healthcare expansion in the Middle East. The hospital incorporates research as well as teaching and consultant-led clinical care. More than 15,000 patients have been treated since the hospital opened.


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