Expat Focus International Healthcare Update September 2022

Healthcare costs are ‘most pressing’ issue in Switzerland

Basic health insurance costs are due to rise by 9% when premiums are renewed in Switzerland, according to a recent report. A survey by media group Tamedia has revealed that concerns about healthcare are the most pressing issue in Switzerland, both among citizens and expats. Two thirds of people surveyed said that healthcare costs needed to be urgently addressed. If you are concerned about the cost of your health insurance, it might be worth contacting your existing provider and, if you are in a position to do so, shopping around.

If you’re an expat in Switzerland, or have Swiss family members, it’s also worth checking to see if you’re entitled to a payout. There’s been a scandal recently, when the Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) discovered that provider CSS Versicherung AG was responsible for what they refer to as ‘serious violations’ of supervisory law from 2013 to 2019. These violations are based on deficiencies in the area of intermediary business and administrative costs – namely, that CSS was illicitly passing some of its management costs onto policy holders. It also did not monitor the risks of working with a particular private provider carefully enough, paying commissions and giving contracts to the company without assessing whether costs would be borne by the policy holder – which, in the event, they were.

The free daily newspaper 20 minuten reports that reimbursement will be determined by the type of product, the length of the insurance contract, and the cost of premiums, but CSS have been ordered to refund 129 million francs to affected customers. The company is intending to appeal, but if you think you might have been affected, it’s worth keeping an eye on developments.

Free health checks for expats in the UAE

Expats in the UAE have been offered free/affordable care at not-for-profit healthcare facility the Pakistani Medical Centre (PMC), Dubai. Free consultation to UAE residents aged 75+, free paediatric, gynaecology, and cardiology consultations, and a 50% discount on all in-house procedures have been offered by the Centre to celebrate Pakistani Independence Day. The offer ran for two weeks in August and was taken up by around 850 people.

It’s worth contacting the Centre, as their offer for free care for over 75s may still be running as part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

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New case management service for expats in Portugal

Serenity Care is setting up a Medical Case Management system for expats in Portugal. You can now register with a case manager as a single point of contact for your healthcare, and this manager will be able to communicate with you in English, French or Portuguese. They will also be able to direct you to relevant specialists.

The Global Retirement Index ranks Portugal as the fourth best country in which to retire in 2022, and it’s also popular among digital nomads and entrepreneurs. Serenity says that they offer a bespoke concierge service for those who might be worried about communicating with a Portuguese language provider.

Medical test is a requirement in new UAE sponsorship laws

Under new residence visa rules, expats living in the UAE can now sponsor their children up to the age of 25 years (rather than 18 years, as previously), and can sponsor their unmarried daughters for an unlimited period. However, there are certain criteria to which you must adhere. Family members aged 18+ will need to pass a medical fitness test at approved health centres in the UAE. If you are deemed medically unfit, you won’t be granted a visa.

Hong Kong struggles to attract teachers after lockdowns

The Financial Times reported in August that many international schools have been struggling to attract teaching staff following the Covid-19 regulations imposed by the state. Employers say that the draconian regulations, including quarantines, are making it extremely hard to attract and keep staff. Ruth Benny, a Hong Kong education specialist at consultancy Top Schools, told the FT that salaries were already at their height and there was ‘not much more’ that schools could do to fill empty places.

The city has been relaxing its Covid-19 policies in recent weeks. In early August, it brought hotel quarantines down to three days, with an additional four days of home isolation following this in which you are forbidden to enter bars or restaurants. It has also got rid of the temporary ban on flights, brought into effect when some planes were found to be carrying passengers with Covid.

The British Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong welcomed this relaxation, but executive director David Graham said that more is still needed to be done, adding, “This should reduce the cost of travel and take some of the pressure off hotel availability. However, it is unlikely to benefit the broader business and tourist travel which will need a full lifting of quarantine controls. This will be critical for Hong Kong’s economic and business outlook.”

Compulsory private health insurance in Dubai

A new law in Dubai means that private health insurance will now be compulsory for expats, resulting in what experts refer to as a ‘three-year feeding frenzy’ among insurance companies, as the rollout commences. Dubai is following a precedent in this, set by Abu Dhabi. There are predictions that this will cost around 2% of the average expat salary.

Don’t forget your booster!

The UK has just started its rollout of the next Covid-19 booster for over 75s, and the EU has also just approved a ‘bivalent’ booster against Omicron and BA.1, for rollout in autumn/winter. Spain, for instance, is due to give out jabs from mid-September. If you are in a priority category due to age (check your in-country regulations) or for other reasons (you are a frontline healthcare worker), keep an eye out for invitations to take up your jab. In the UK, these have been delivered by letter. Note also that if you’re travelling into the UK, the government has issued this statement:

Overseas visitors to England, including anyone living in the UK without permission, will not be charged for:

  • Testing for COVID-19 (even if the test shows they do not have COVID-19)
  • Treatment for COVID-19, including for a related problem called multisystem inflammatory syndrome that affects some children
  • Vaccination against COVID-19, including boosters

No immigration checks are needed for overseas visitors if they are only tested, treated or vaccinated for COVID-19. So, basically, you can get vaccinated if you are a tourist in the UK.


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