The international private medical insurance industry continues to go from strength to strength. Sam Barrett looks at some of the highlights in the sector in 2015
Different rules and healthcare requirements in every country around the world mean it’s not surprisingly international private medical insurance (IPMI) is regarded as the fastest moving sector in health and protection. And, whether it was rule changes or product enhancements, it certainly lived up to this reputation in 2015.
It wasn’t surprising that the Middle East remained one of the most carefully watched areas over the last year, especially with so many expats based in the region. While Dubai continues to roll out its health insurance reforms, closely watched by many of the other Gulf States, some specialists, including Jelf International’s director of international, Doug Rice, believe some level of unified healthcare system will be introduced across the region in the next few years.
Closer to home, there were also warnings that reforms to the German healthcare system could leave employees without adequate cover. The reforms, which made health insurance compulsory for all residents, mean that companies with employees based in the region will need to check cover is valid and appropriate to their requirements.
Wherever employees or individuals are based, staying on top of the requirements is essential. According to figures obtained from the Office for National Statistics by Jelf International, almost five million UK employees were working overseas between 2010 and 2012 – an increase of more than 13% on the previous period.
The top destination for these overseas workers is the US, where just over 1m employees are based, followed by India (340,000), Germany (280,000) and France (265,000). The data also shows which countries have seen the largest growth in the number of UK employees. Top is Saint Lucia, which experienced growth of 13,432% with its 5,007 UK employees, followed by Barbados, with 1,630 employees.
But, whether going to emerging destinations or those that are already well established, research by Expacare, Anatomy of an international business 2014-15, shows that employees expect to be looked after while they’re away. It found that the most requested benefits package is medical insurance, with a quarter of employees asking for this, followed by cover for dependants at 23% of those surveyed.
To meet this demand and ensure plans remain competitive and compliant with changing regulations, the international medical insurers were busy launching new products and enhancing existing ones in 2015.
Bupa Global kicked the year off with its tiered IPMI plan, launching first in Hong Kong and Mexico before it brought the concept to the UK in February. Consisting of four products, ranging from its Global Select, with a £1m annual limit, through to its Global Ultimate, with no annual limit, extensive GP consultations and genetic cancer screening, the range aims to be simple and easy to understand.
China was the focus for Allianz Worldwide Care, which launched international healthcare plans for individuals and their families living in the country. Regulations in the country meant this was achieved through a partnership with sister company, Allianz China General Insurance company.
Initially the plans, which are designed for expatriates and local nationals, will be available to anyone living in Shanghai. Cover consists of three core plans, which can be supplemented by optional benefits such as out-patient maternity and health and wellbeing treatment.
AIG also moved into the IPMI market with the launch of its Expatriate Care product through a partnership with European medical plan administrator Henner. The plan is available to individuals and groups, with groups of as few as five employees able to access medical history disregarded.
Another key launch in 2015 was Aetna International’s new global healthcare products for individuals and families with its Pioneer plan, and groups, with its Summit plan. Each plan is modular with five base levels available. In addition individuals can include a Healthy Behaviours premium discount to reward them with discounts of up to 25% off their premiums in exchange for healthy living.
With members all over the world, and potentially a long way from civilisation, providing a good level of service is also essential. To enable them to have instant access to their insurer, many have launched apps enabling members to do everything from look up the name of a drug in a different language to submit a claim online.
For example, in 2015, Now Health International launched a new mobile app, giving its members access to functions such as finding a medical provider within its cashless network and submitting a claim.
There’s certainly demand for this form of technology when it comes to claims. Expacare’s research found that 42% of employees would like to be able to submit claims via email and only 10% would ask for a postal form.
This can also be seen in figures from Allianz Worldwide Care. One year after it launched its MyHealth app in October 2014, it had been downloaded more than 60,000 times and used to submit in excess of 100,000 member claims. This means that more of its claims are now being submitted via the app than by post.
And while keeping up with technology and customer demand will be essential in 2016, it’s the changes to regulations and healthcare systems around the world that are set to really test the international medical insurers.