Expat Focus International Healthcare Update October 2017

New International Employers’ Occupational Health Guide Launched

A new guide which aims to provide international employers with information on occupational health as well as reporting and practice for their expat employees has been launched.The guide shows the importance of reporting on health across organisations, as well as operationally and strategically within organisations. The guide also looks at the changing face of occupational health for international employees. It’s been unveiled by consultancy Sancroft and the International SOS Foundation, and has the aim of boosting reporting guidelines for employers with a global workforce. The guide says that the fields of occupational health and safety as well as workplace wellbeing is undergoing change, and firms must understand the impact of these issue.

Sancroft’s chief executive, Judy Kuszewski, said: “Business sustainability reporting provides an overview of strategy and the social, economic and environmental factors that influence that in terms of opportunity and risk. Ensuring employees are physically fit to work and are motivated and empowered could be the difference between failure and success. It’s important for professionals to have appropriate best practice materials and guidelines to measure the impact of understanding employee health.”

Financial Impact Of Brexit

While negotiations for the UK’s exit from European Union continue, it appears that some British expats may be facing expensive healthcare bills. It has been revealed that, after Brexit, British expats working and living in EU member states may have to pay for their NHS treatment in the UK, while EU expats working and living in the UK will enjoy free treatment.

The intention to provide healthcare for EU nationals has been outlined in a new law from the UK government. Legal experts are now calling for a safety net to ensure that British expats who return to the UK will have their health care costs covered.

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The current European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) enables British citizens to enjoy free treatment in EU states, and for EU citizens to enjoy treatment in the UK, although this will end in 2019. However, negotiators have requested that the scheme continues after Brexit, and have said that the UK is willing to meet the annual £155 million bill. This proposal would cover those visiting the UK, as well as British expats on holiday in the EU, for hospitalisation, treatment and prescriptions.

New Healthcare Plans For Expats In Switzerland

A range of expat health insurance plans for individuals and groups have been launched by Allianz Worldwide Care for expats living in Switzerland. The organisation has teamed up with local health insurance providers to deliver what is, the firm says, one of the first fully compliant plans in the country. The aim is to combine domestic cover with a comprehensive level of international cover.

Oman To Introduce Mandatory Health Insurance

Following in the steps of its regional neighbours, Oman says it is looking to introduce mandatory health insurance cover for expats and nationals working in the Gulf state’s private sector. The announcement has been made by the country’s health minister, and looks set to be introduced early in 2018. Currently, just 10 percent of expats and 9 percent of Omanis who work in the private sector have private health insurance cover.

The health minister says that the move will “boost the efficiency and quality of the private health sector,” which will be funded by those with private health insurance. However, some media outlets state that health insurance coverage is already a mandatory requirement for expats in Oman, but that the law is not enforced by the authorities.

Are You Missing Out On Medical Benefits?

A survey has revealed that 40 percent of expats do not have employer-provided medical benefits. This research from Cigna questioned 2,000 expats and found that 51 percent of them said they preferred to return home when receiving medical treatment. However, 13 percent of expats cannot do this because they don’t have insurance coverage.

The 2017 Cigna 360 Wellbeing Survey also reveals that:

• 19 percent of expats worry about accidents, compared to 13 percent of the general population
• 15 percent of expats have no medical coverage
• 53 percent of expats said that having health insurance is crucial when moving overseas
• 13 percent of expats say they have enough money to retire
• 75 percent of expats say they have enjoyed the experience of working overseas
• 20 percent of expats say they are happy with amount of time they spend with their family.

The president of Cigna International Markets, Jason Sadler, said: “Globally mobile individuals are more concerned about their own wellbeing and health than the general working population. This group is also worried about the consequences of family or personal illness, which is compounded by a gap in the health benefits provided by employers.”

He added that the survey reveals that health benefits are an important feature when expats are deciding whether to take a posting overseas, and that employers need to pay more attention to the wellbeing and health of globally mobile employees, and to extend their duty of care to outside of the office as well as within.

Short-Term Expat Health Insurance

The growing popularity of short-term expat assignments has led to one insurance provider boosting their offering to meet the growing marketplace demands. April International says that what began as a small trend is now dominating the marketplace, as younger expats tend to prefer shorter overseas assignments.

April are launching short-term policies which range from three months to one year in order to enable expats to enjoy a wide range of health insurance coverage. The firm’s business development director, Joe Thomas, said: “Our health insurance is for multiple short trips or longer stays for up to one year, and the cost is far lower than traditional long-term expat international health insurance products.”

Five Reasons For IPMI In The UK

Worldwide health insurer Cigna has published a report on why expats heading to the UK should consider International Private Medical Insurance (IPMI).

While the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) is one of the world’s best healthcare systems, Cigna says an international health insurance policy is still worth considering. The organisation points out that the UK’s immigration health surcharge, which is a fee payable by nationals from non-EEA countries during the visa application process, needs to be paid if expats need to make use of the country’s NHS. However, having paid the fee, will the service provide the necessary cover expats in the UK are looking for.

Cigna says that for peace of mind, there are five reasons why expats should be looking for cross-border coverage.

1. Easier access to the treatment needed
2. Expats will receive a better support network
3. IPMI policies are ideal for global workers
4. The policy will fill in those gaps provided by company health insurance policies
5. IPMI will meet an expat’s specific needs.

Mental Health Support For Expats In The UAE

Growing numbers of companies in the UAE are offering mental health support for their expat employees after doctors there said the services were increasingly needed as a result of the large amount of time adults spend in the workplace. Among the improvements are confidential phone lines as well as a recognition and awareness of mental health issues in the country. Doctors point out that isolation, overwork and stress are big problems for expats.

The issue of mental health services provided for employees is still a new concept to employers in the Middle East, says one company. Icas international says it provided support to more than 40 employers, with staff given access to support hotlines, managerial consultancy and a health portal.

Stricter Controls On Prescription Drugs

Abu Dhabi has unveiled stricter controls on prescriptions for pills, and the country’s National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) is looking to extend insurance coverage for expat patients. In order to restrict the number of risky pills being handed out, it will be more difficult to fill in a form for the same prescriptive drug several times. The NRC also says it is also looking to help expats undertake rehabilitation treatment as an inpatient and follow-up appointments as an outpatient by offering help with treatment fees.

Remote Global Tracking

A firm is offering employers with expat employees around the globe the opportunity to track them to ensure they remain safe. StaySafe is offering a lone worker solutions app which is integrated with Garmin’s InReach device to offer coverage in remote areas including polar regions, airways and oceans. The waterproof, impact resistant device also offers satellite mapping, weather reports and a compass.

The firm says remote workers can be monitored by satellite and should a panic alert be triggered, organisation can then act quickly. A StaySafe spokesman said: “Satellite coverage allows us to offer a device to a lone worker that can be monitored anywhere in the world.”

New Kuwait Healthcare Fees

Expats in Kuwait are now paying higher healthcare fees for health centres (KD2), hospital accident wards (KD5) and outpatient clinics (KD10). These new fees were introduced on 1 October.

Some MPs had lobbied for a delay until next year for the introduction, fearing that many expats in the country cannot afford the new rates. However, the country’s Parliament has been told that state revenues will double thanks to the new expat medical service charges.

One impact of the new fees, according to media reports, has been a surge in hospital visits by expats in the country keen to avoid the dearer fees. A news outlet reported on a pregnant expat woman pleading with doctors for a caesarean section to avoid the higher delivery costs.

Kuwait has also circulated a memo to its health centres and hospitals stating that expats should be advised to treat their relatives in the home countries whenever possible.

In Other Healthcare News…

Expats in Germany will soon be able to access IPMI from MSH International after the firm bought The BDAE Group. The number of expats living in South Korea who have signed up with a healthcare coverage provider has rocketed nearly 50 percent in five years.

The declining popularity of private healthcare insurance in Australia is to be tackled by the government over the next three years with a range of packages designed to boost uptake, particularly for young people. It has been estimated that around 10,000 Australians and expats in the country abandon their health insurance cover every month. Indeed, one survey has revealed that more than 50 percent of people with private health insurance say it’s not worth the cost and want a cap on annual increases. The country’s health coverage scheme has run into problems in recent years with escalating costs and people leaving in large numbers, forcing the government to look at ways to salvage popularity of health care cover.

The Dubai Health Authority has unveiled a new occupational and medical fitness screening system that will deliver the results of health tests for visas much more promptly than the existing system. This system has been rolled out to all of Dubai’s medical fitness centres, and results are now delivered in minutes rather than hours.

A survey by Mercer of employee health and benefits in Singapore has revealed that growing numbers of employers are struggling to meet rising healthcare costs while trying to attract expat talent. Singapore has also seen a steep rise in hospital costs, which are in turn pushing up health premiums. Many employers are now opting for cheaper health plans to meet the needs of their employees.

AXA Global Healthcare has unveiled plans to meet ‘fresh IPMI challenges’. It has boosted the number of plans delivering a wider offering to expats wherever they are living in a world, and is now offering a more comprehensive service and with better emergency cover.

Expats living in the Netherlands on a residency permit will not be able to access the country’s health care for the first two years.

A study has shown that most young US expats said they would choose assistance with a student loan repayment over health insurance as the most desirable job benefit.

Expats living in Thailand are said to be taken aback by the government announcement to ban smoking on the country’s main tourist beaches. The move follows a mass clean-up of one beach which led to tens of thousands of cigarette butts being removed. Expats and tourists could now face fines of up to £2,250 and imprisonment for one year if caught smoking on these beaches.


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