Global health insurance provider Aetna buys Bupa Thailand

global health insurance provider Aetna acquires Bupa Thailand

At the end of July, leading global health insurance provider Aetna Inc. announced that it had acquired UK-based Bupa Group’s Thai business, Bupa Thailand, for an undisclosed amount. The acquisition allows Aetna to significantly increase its presence in the Asia region, and is key to their strategy to go ‘broader and deeper’ into local healthcare markets around the world. Shortly after the acquisition was announced, Aetna also outlined the launch of its new service approach for large organizations with over 1,500 staff overseas.

Read on to learn more about Aetna’s acquisition of Bupa Thailand, and to find out about the global health insurance provider’s new service approach for international corporations.

About Aetna’s acquisition of Bupa Thailand

Aetna’s latest acquisition strategically combines the strengths and deep reach of both insurance companies to provide enhanced offerings to health insurance customers in Thailand. Bupa Thailand’s in-depth knowledge of the Thai healthcare market, system and culture, coupled with Aetna’s vast product portfolio and global health insurance expertise, will ultimately result in broader insurance product offerings in Thailand, as well as build on Bupa Thailand’s exceptional service.

“This is a significant and exciting expansion for Aetna in Asia, and clearly demonstrates our commitment to investment and growth in the region and globally”, commented Richard di Benedetto, President of US-headquartered Aetna International. “Thailand is an important market for us, with increasing local wealth driving greater adoption of health insurance.  Aetna’s wide product portfolio, together with an excellent talent and knowledge base transferring from Bupa, will put us in a very strong position in the local market.”

Established more than 30 years ago, Bupa is one of Thailand’s top health insurance providers, with over 300,000 members and a network of over 400 medical providers in the region. For a short period of time, Bupa Thailand will continue operating under the Bupa brand name before rebranding as Aetna.

Thailand: A lucrative market for global health insurance providers

As one of Asia’s most lucrative markets, Thailand continues to attract the attention of world leading global health insurance providers, many of whom are keen on establishing and growing their presence in the region. One key reason for this is continual economic growth in Thailand, which has resulted in a wealthier population.

According to our Cost of International Health Insurance – 2017 report, it is anticipated that the middle class population in Thailand will exceed 200 million by 2020. Not only are we witnessing a growing middle class, but the number of High Net Worth (HNW) individuals is also increasing. For example, the number of HNW in the region increased from 49,800 in 2009 to 95,700 in 2015. This increase in wealth has led to a growth in demand for both local and global health insurance products in Thailand.

Aetna’s new service approach for international corporations

Shortly after announcing its latest acquisition in Thailand, global health insurance provider Aetna also outlined the details of its new service approach for international corporations with over 1,500 staff overseas. Following detailed health insurance broker consultations, the company has developed a fully flexible solution designed to meet the corporate insurance needs of large companies with international operations.

Damian Lenihan, Executive Director of UK Distribution at Aetna International, outlined the new service approach in this article by Health Insurance & Protection Daily. According to Lenihan, the proposition consists of the following four main pillars:

Member support

By focusing on member needs, employer-provided health insurance policies should cover both core benefits (like inpatient and outpatient treatment), as well as additional health and wellness benefits (like dental insurance), as per customer requirements.

Service delivery

Everything from language needs to claims processing requirements should be tailored around member specifications. Aetna will also be able to provide solutions to clients looking to self-insure.

Full program transparency

“Granular analytical data and bespoke management reporting” are instrumental in helping employers understand their group policy’s medical costs, and where savings are made.

Partnership approach

By adopting a partnership approach, Aetna focuses on providing clients with a fully resourced and responsive team, who are able to deal with and handle every eventuality.

Pacific Prime: Your global health insurance specialist

With almost two decades of experience advising and matching clients with the best global health insurance solutions, Pacific Prime has developed longstanding partnerships with the world’s largest and most reputable insurers, including Aetna, Bupa, Liberty Insurance, Cigna, MSIG, and many more. As we are not beholden to one particular insurer, you can rest assured that we will find you a local, regional, or global health insurance plan that provides the best value for your specific needs and budget requirements.

If you have any questions, or would like to learn more about your insurance options, be sure to get in touch with one of our helpful advisors today. Those looking for further information on corporate insurance solutions can also check out our new online resource for corporate clients here.

Expat mental health: Addressing the issue

expat mental health

As an insurance brokerage specializing in international health insurance, Pacific Prime is one of the loudest voices out there when it comes to trying to inform those living and working abroad of what risks they should be prepared for when moving to a new locale. Knowing about the specific area in which you live, how the healthcare system there works, and any lesser known dangers that may exist there can be hugely beneficial to families in a new land. After all, when moving to an unfamiliar place, we have a million things to worry about, and oftentimes being well versed in the local medical system is one of the last things we consider. However, there’s one aspect of expat health that may be even less thought of, and that’s mental health. Here, we discuss expat mental health, and try to raise some points that expats worldwide can make use of.

Expat mental health in the news

Recently Aetna International published a report that highlighted a specific case in the Persian Gulf. Specifically, in February 2017, an American working in the Persian Gulf committed suicide. Despite all of her friends’ assertions that she seemed “vivacious and full of life” on the surface, she actually suffered from clinical depression. The report itself pointed out several factors that put expatriates in a unique situation vis-a-vis their domestic counterparts that may leave them more susceptible to mental health problems.

First, expatriates are cut off from the emotional and psychological support systems that they would have once been able to reliably fall back upon if times ever got tough. The advent of modern communication technology has afforded expats a great deal more indirect contact with loved ones. Gone are the days when the only way to get in touch was with a letter or a call on the landline. Now, we can video call or simply send a quick online message to our family and friends back home, or even just check out their social media accounts to see what they’ve been up to. However, even with the ability to communicate readily at our fingertips, it seems we’re doing less and less actual speaking with the people in our home countries.

Next, the article mentions “adapting to new languages, cultures and work responsibilities”, which is certainly true. For some people, getting outside of our comfort zones can be a jarring experience. Combine this with the possibility of feeling overwhelmed when faced with a host of differing challenges, and we can start to feel like we’re up to our neck in adversity.

All of the above can lead to a feeling that we are cut off from the world we once knew, and induce feelings of helplessness, confusion, or anxiety. The important thing is that we take the necessary steps to address these issues before they become deep seated problems. However, this is often more easily said than done.

The stigma of mental health

Let’s face it. Almost anywhere you go in the world, there will be a stigma attached to mental health issues. Whether as a youth or an adult, there is likely some point at which we’ve all seen or heard someone put down or written off as “crazy.” If someone were to experience this enough, they would likely learn to believe that having a mental health issue is something to be ashamed of and hidden from the world. Then, afraid to even share with their most trusted friends and family, the problems may get worse without help and culminate in a rash action being taken. This is the downward spiral that is created by treating mental illness as something shameful. In fact, mental illness should be treated as something normal that should be addressed with medical professionals, just as would be the case with any physical illness.

All this actually highlights one of Aetna’s mentioned solutions for improving expat mental health: raising awareness. The best way to erase a stigma is to shine a light on it. By putting pressure on local healthcare systems, governments and other organizations to run campaigns for the promotion of mental health awareness, people can begin to change the way that their neighbors think about the issue, and encourage those that need help to seek it out.

Other expat mental health solutions

So beyond raising awareness, what can people do to address their expat mental health concerns? Well, many insurance plans include a benefit known as an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). These programs can provide a range of different features that can assist those struggling with their mental health. This includes support over the phone for stress management, substance abuse, or coping with major life events. They can also include coverage for local therapy sessions.

Sadly, for some the fact remains that mental health facilities, resources, and support vary greatly in different areas in the world. If you are fortunate enough to be stationed in an area with a highly developed mental healthcare system, you should count yourself lucky. The reality for many expats is that, no matter how much effort and money they or their employers are willing to put in, the local area simply will not have much, if any, expat mental health support available. In cases such as this, more creative solutions may be required, such as online therapy sessions.

Another factor that should be considered by every company sending staff abroad long-term should be the process through which the employee is prepared for the new assignment. Many companies send workers abroad without much, if any, consideration for preparing them for the experience mentally. In fact, Aetna believes it would be prudent for employers to carry out screenings or assessments to evaluate if a given employee should even be sent overseas, as some people will simply be able to cope better with such a large change more effectively than others, regardless of previous work performance. At the least, businesses should supply staff going abroad with comprehensive cultural and language training to make assimilating to a new location easier.

Expats in crisis?

So, are expats really more at risk of suffering mental health issues than others? To be sure, depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders are global and ubiquitous. No particular demographic can claim to be exempt from these types of problems. However, when comparing one company’s overseas workers to its domestic employees, one study cited in the Aetna report found that 56% of expats self-reported signs of anxiety or depression, compared to only 21% of workers in the home office.

This shows that businesses should be concerned about their overseas employees’ ongoing state of mind. As such, they should secure for their employees an insurance and wellness policy that includes considerations for mental health. By offering regular therapy sessions, and further treatment for more acute mental disorders, companies can ensure that their valued staff abroad are never left feeling like they don’t have the support they need.

Whether you’re a company looking to protect your employees, or an individual that feels you could benefit from this type of coverage, you can always get the information you need about mental health insurance benefits from Pacific Prime. Our staff is here to address all inquiries, and let you know which insurance plans have the very best in mental health benefits, including those from Aetna.

Contact us today for a free plan comparison and price quote.

Managing risks involved with overseas-based staff

airport flight board showing international destinations as a sign for companies to consider managing risks better

For Human Resources staff, ensuring the safety of your workers heading abroad on overseas assignments means assessing and mitigating the potential risks involved. When it comes to managing risks, securing appropriate insurance can go a long way. Often the things that we perceive as being major threats are the last things that will go wrong; but the small stuff can really ruin an overseas experience.

Following a recent article printed in the International Travel & Health Insurance Journal, Pacific Prime delves into the considerations you should make insurance-wise when you’re sending staff overseas.

Weighing up the likelihood of travel-related issues

When it comes to assessing the possible dangers of working abroad, we have a tendency to think of more high-profile risks such as terrorism or natural disasters. While these are concerns that absolutely should be considered during an assessment, their likelihood of occurring can be extremely low. Instead, we tend to ignore some of the more low-profile concerns, such as stolen items or hygiene illnesses, which can happen at a much higher frequency.

In countries where kidnapping is more common, such as those in Latin America or South East Asia, it is wise to ensure that your company provides coverage in case the unthinkable does happen. However, it’s just as important to consider things such as purse snatching, vehicle accidents, and bouts of food poisoning; all of which are more likely to affect your staff and, eventually, disrupt your business operations, should they occur.

Preparing your staff for life overseas

Using common sense and taking personal precautions is a must when travelling. Often, business travelers can be the cause of their own risk; either by simply ignoring the conditions of the country they’re in, or by making poor decisions. Obviously drink driving is dangerous and illegal the world over, however the number of tourists and working visa holders appearing in court in places like New Zealand have reached national attention.

Socializing and mixing can be a common and frequent part of a travelling business person’s life. Managing the risks associated with those expectations might mean setting a strict company policy, or simply ensuring your own company liability insurance can cover what should hopefully be an infrequent, unlikely event.

Understand the risks in countries you do business in

The issues and risks your staff may face will vary from country to country; so it’s important to clearly understand what might occur, and where. Again, some countries are more prone to problems like kidnapping or acts of terrorism. Other destinations will be Zika-affected locations, and as such will cause special concern from those at risk while travelling there. Risk mapping can be an appropriate way to proactively mitigate any potential issues.

This can help you by managing risks per geographical location, and per the staff expected to operate in those areas. A kidnapping protection policy can be expensive, but it might be absolutely appropriate for some staff, while others might need tailored international health insurance plans to cover them for location-specific illnesses. Targeted risk profiling will mean targeted coverage for your staff overseas, and may save you money.

Be clear about your expectations of staff while abroad

Sending staff overseas is a big responsibility for companies, but can also be a huge opportunity for your staff. While travelling employees will no doubt know to put their best foot forward when representing your company internationally, you should also be very clear about your company safety guidelines, and the importance of complying with them.

Putting the effort into risk mapping, country profiling, arranging flights and accommodations, and acquiring relevant right-to-work visas can all be undone by a staff member who fails to keep themselves safe. This is why, as part of managing risks for overseas employees, you need to absolutely stress that adhering to your company safety and wellbeing policy is non-negotiable.

Prepare for what you know, be aware of what you don’t

Part of assessing business travel risk also means ensuring staff keep their wits about them. Travellers often have access to large amounts of information online and friendly advice from colleagues about what to watch out for when abroad; but what about things that people don’t know about? The reason travel blogs still exist is that countries and locations are dynamic; the people, culture, and even threats, can change a lot over a relatively short period of time.

Some of the information you read online might be out of date, or colleagues may have anecdotes from when they visited an area more than a few years ago. If your focus is only on major concerns such as a terrorist attack while in Africa or being victim to a robbery whilst on a tuk tuk in Thailand, then you might not see an unknown threat such as ATM card-scanners, or an increase in dangerous climate conditions due to changing weather patterns.

Being responsive and adaptive to things you don’t know can help you and your staff overcome any unseen challenges that may threaten to disrupt your business, and put your employees at risk.

What can I do to better protect my staff and my business?

There are a number of actions that you can take as a company to mitigate risks when you’re sending staff abroad. Some, such as strengthening internal policies, and installing protocols and systems for managing risks for overseas employees, are steps your business can take. As for matters of insurance, the best decision you can make is to work with a reputable, international insurance broker such as Pacific Prime.

We are experts in all things insurance, particularly those with international and corporate considerations. Our staff in Hong Kong have previously discussed what specific insurance requirements a company might have when sending staff overseas, while our Singapore office has an article on disaster insurance that many businesses will find useful to know.

If you’re a company that wants to know if you have covered all your bases for staff that you’re posting overseas, check out our Corporate Site or contact the team at Pacific Prime today! 

Cyber attacks vs natural disasters: Which cost more?

cyber attacks

It’s a sad thing to say, but there have been a plethora of storms happening recently. At the time of this article’s writing, much of Houston, Texas is underwater. Hurricane Harvey barreled down upon the city, dumping over 11 trillion gallons of water on the area and causing widespread flooding that has devastated the local community. We at Pacific Prime certainly wish Houston a speedy recovery from Hurricane Harvey, but as insurance professionals, we know that once a modicum of normality is restored to Houston and the surrounding area, insurance companies are going to be counting their losses and comparing this disaster to those in history. To be sure, hurricanes and typhoons are incredibly destructive and costly occurrences, but a new report from Lloyd’s puts these massive natural disasters on par with a danger that is not as much in the forefront of the average person’s mind: cyber attacks. Here, we discuss the report’s findings and examine the potential magnitude of large scale cyber attacks with regards to potential financial losses.

Superstorms cause super losses

In Pacific Prime’s headquarters city of Hong Kong, there were recently two separate typhoons in a single week. The first of which, Typhoon Hato, has been estimated to have caused about USD1 billion in damages. Being a city that is strongly constructed out of steel and concrete, this is actually not nearly as high a figure as it could have been, even though Hato was one of the strongest storms in Hong Kong’s recorded history. Hato’s damage to Macau, which was substantially more affected by the storm, remain unclear at this point.

Unlike Hong Kong, the homes in Houston, which are generally constructed from wood and other materials that are lighter than what is usually found in a Hong Kong skyscraper, are less able to resist the forces of a large storm. Couple this with the flooding that occurred and the fact that so many more homes are on ground level, and you have a recipe for major damage to property and financial loss. Of course US insurers are highly concerned with how much Hurricane Harvey will cost them in the end. Preliminary reports suggest that losses may come in at around the same amount incurred following landfall of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which ended up being the United State’s most costly natural disaster in recorded history.

Hurricane Katrina was a somewhat similar situation to what is happening in Houston, as a powerful storm resulted in the flooding of New Orleans, Louisiana and surrounding areas. The damage caused by Katrina was to the tune of USD108 billion! As high as this number seems, it is very possible that Hurricane Harvey will create a similar loss figure.

A digital perfect storm?

Considering that all of the above mentioned losses come from huge natural disasters that affect millions of lives in a single go, it might be hard to believe that a single cyber attack could possibly result in as much damage (monetarily, at least). So if this Lloyd’s analysis is true, how exactly would a cyber attack go about doing as much damage as Hurricane Harvey has done to Houston? Lloyd’s wanted to get the point across that cyber crimes, while they may not get the attention in the media that natural disasters do, can affect people and businesses on a very large scale.

As Lloyd’s reports, a hack which takes down a single cloud service provider could see cumulative losses up to USD121 billion, while a virus affecting computer operating systems for many global businesses could come with a USD28.7 billion price tag. What’s more, while Cyber Insurance is gaining popularity around the world, in the event that such a cyber attack were to happen, a large majority of those affected would have zero insurance coverage. So, depending on the degree to which a business is affected, a large loss due to a cyber attack could be back breaking. Even if money lost to hackers is not a major worry, the damage that can be done to a company’s image or reputation can be irreparable. This is because clients and partners can begin to question the security a company has in place, and may think that they are exposing themselves to too much risk.

From an insurer’s point of view, cyber attacks can be just as much of a headache as a natural disaster merely due to the logistics of addressing claims related to large scale attacks. The more people that are affected, the more claims that are made, the more manpower that must be put forth by insurance company staff. Beyond reimbursing damages to policyholders, this is an additional costs that insurers must consider. Of course, not having to send out agents to assess physical damage is certainly a savings for insurers servicing Cyber Insurance policies versus property insurance policies.

Cyber attacks case in point

One need not search too far back in history to find a cyber attack that caused huge losses for businesses and individuals around the world. As recently as May of 2017, a widespread ransomware known as WannaCry began infesting the systems of Windows operating system users around the world. Exploiting a security flaw that had already been known and addressed by many through Windows updates, the virus made its way into unprotected computers and held all the data on them for ransom. If users did not pay the amount stipulated by the software, it would erase all data on an infected computer.

This ransomware attack alone resulted in a total global loss of approximately USD4 billion.

Preventing damage with Cyber Insurance

Much like no amount of Home Insurance can stop a hurricane from wreaking havoc upon a person’s belongings, Cyber Insurance is not a fail safe against being hacked, having computer systems become infected with a virus, or data loss or theft. Ensuring computer systems and data security is something that every business needs to work closely on with their IT team. However, where Home Insurance can repair or replace damage to one’s belongings, Cyber Insurance can go a long way towards protecting a business and ensuring that it weathers the proverbial ‘storm’ of cyber attacks.

Cyber Insurance provides policyholders with different levels of protection. First off, liability for the loss of others’ data is addressed with payouts up to maximum amount, so the insured will likely be protected from all litigation as long as their maximums are set to an appropriate level.

Another way in which Cyber Insurance can provide protection is by making up for the lost revenue that may occur due to a stoppage of business. If, for instance, a cyber attack caused lengthy downtime while computer systems are rebuilt, Cyber Insurance can help to pay for overhead costs that may become burdensome on a business without a continuous flow of income coming in.

Additionally, Cyber Insurance will address costs related to actually restoring computer systems and lost electronic data.

Finally, many will no doubt want to attempt to catch the individual(s) responsible for hurting their business, so Cyber Insurance can provide benefits to go toward investigation of cyber attacks in the hopes of identifying perpetrators and bringing them to justice.

Of course, like cyber attacks themselves, Cyber Insurance is changing and evolving all the time. For more information on Cyber Insurance, contact the knowledgeable insurance professionals at Pacific Prime today! They can answer all of your questions and get your started on the path towards peace of mind both personally and professionally.

Australian households find private health insurance too complex

Private health insurance complex article

With over 40,000 plans on the market, private health insurance has become “a quagmire of cost and confusion” for Australian households, says Matt Levey, the Director of Campaigns and Communications at consumer group CHOICE. In a national survey commissioned by CHOICE, it was found that nearly half (44 percent) of Australian policyholders consider comparing health insurance too “difficult”, while the remainder was divided between “neutral” and “easy”.

Because of this perceived complexity, many people feel discouraged from looking for/ switching policies and taking the time to find a better deal compared to the insurance that they already have. Here, we look at the top reasons behind why so many Australians find private health insurance so complex, and provide some key tips on what you can do to educate yourself on the basics of insurance.

Why people find comparing private health insurance challenging

Respondents from the latest CHOICE survey revealed that many people find it hard to compare private health insurance. Here are the top reasons why:

  • 69% of respondents say they find it difficult to compare plans side-by-side
  • 54% find it difficult to compare out-of-pocket costs if they were to go to hospital
  • 53% say information from insurers is not set out consistently
  • 53% find it hard to compare extras* rebates
  • 45% believe not all policies are available for comparison
  • 43% of respondents find it hard to grasp insurance terminology
  • 39% say they are unable to compare cover for specific health problems that they’re worried about
  • 36% are unable to find independent information they can trust
  • 25% say they get too much information from insurers
  • 21% say they have experienced difficulties comparing what they would save on tax or get from a rebate

*Extras health insurance, also known as general or ancillary cover, provides coverage for non-hospital related medical services (e.g. dental, optical).

With so many people feeling overwhelmed by this complexity, Matt Levey from CHOICE believes that it could make a grudge purchase a bad one, leading to poor outcomes including securing an ill-fitting insurance plan. With this in mind, the survey results have illuminated the pressing need to improve health insurance literacy among the general public, so that people can make better, more informed choices.

How to educate yourself on health insurance

Private health insurance can be confusing at first, but the more you know about it, the better off you will be. This is especially true for those who are shopping for health plans for the first time, who may be understandably overwhelmed when faced with so many plans and insurance terms like “pre-existing conditions”, “coinsurance”, “deductibles”, etc. As such, having at least some basic knowledge of health insurance can go a long way in ensuring that, amid ever-rising premiums, you get the best value plan on the market.

So, how do you start your education? Looking for credible sources on the internet can be a great way to start, so that you can learn about the ins and outs of insurance at your own pace. In our goal to simplify health insurance, we’ve released a number of easy-to-read guides and reports that should be of use to anyone looking to learn more about insurance:

Our blog is also a great resource for various insurance-related topics; feel free to check it out here.

It’s also important to get impartial advice from an expert. We highly recommend that you talk to an established broker like Pacific Prime. With almost 20 years of experience in the field of private health insurance, we’re more than happy to answer any questions you may have regarding insurance terminology, finding the best plan that caters to your health and budget concerns, as well as give you a free quote and comparison of plans from the world’s leading insurers.

Do you have any more questions? Contact the helpful advisors at Pacific Prime today, or check out our free plan comparison tool here.

Source: CHOICE (2017). Making Private Health Insurance Simpler.

New Ecuador visa requirements: Expats must show proof of health insurance

Ecuador visa requirements blog article

New Ecuador visa requirements have now made it mandatory for all long term tourists, temporary residents, and permanent residents including expats to have health insurance that covers them for the entire duration of their stay in the country. It is therefore essential for anyone visiting or moving to Ecuador to be aware of the recent changes to their visa entry requirements in order to avoid having their visas/ entry denied. Read on to find out whether the new Ecuador visa requirements apply to you.

What exactly are the new Ecuador visa requirements?

As of the time of writing this article, those visiting Ecuador as a tourist for less than 90 days during any given year do not need to show proof of travel or health insurance. Visitors from most countries do not require a visa to enter Ecuador for up to 90 days, with some notable country exceptions including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cuba, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, and Senegal. Nationals of the following countries can stay in Ecuador for up to 180 days as a tourist: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.

The new Ecuador visa requirements only applies to tourists who want to extend their stay in Ecuador, temporary residents, and permanent residents. Below are the new Ecuador visa requirements for each visa category:

Tourist Visa Extension

If tourists want to stay in Ecuador for longer than 90 days, they may do so by applying for a Tourist Visa Extension, which will allow them to stay in the country for an additional 90 days. Tourists may also apply to extend their stay for a maximum period of one year by sending a special request to the Human Mobility Authority. This special extension can only be granted once every five years.

Please note here that anyone who wants to apply for a Tourist Visa Extension must secure and show proof of having either a health insurance policy or travel insurance that will cover them for their entire stay in Ecuador.

Temporary Residency Visa

Foreigners who are granted a Temporary Residency Visa will be allowed to stay in Ecuador for up to two years. During this period of time, those with a Temporary Residency Visa in Ecuador are allowed to leave the country up to 90 days in the first year, and again up to 90 days in the second year. Temporary Residency Visas are subject to cancellation if the visa holder fails to comply to the 90 day requirement, in which case they will need to either re-enter Ecuador with a new Temporary Residency Visa and/or new Tourist Visa, depending on their circumstances.

There are thirteen categories under this type of migration status:

  • Worker
  • Independent means
  • Pensioner
  • Investor
  • Scientist, researcher or academic
  • Athlete, artist or cultural agent
  • Religious or religious volunteer
  • Volunteer
  • Student
  • Professional, technician, technologist or master craftsman
  • International convention
  • Dependent (i.e. children, spouse or common law partner, etc.)
  • International protection

Those applying for a Temporary Residency Visa must show proof of having private health insurance or must be affiliated with Ecuador’s social security system, commonly known as the IESS or Instituto Ecuatoriano de Seguridad Social. Please note here that the Temporary Residency Visa can only be renewed once.

Permanent Residency Visa

Permanent Residency Visas allow a foreign citizen to remain in Ecuador for an indefinite period of time. To obtain permanent residence status, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Have stayed in Ecuador for at least 21 months;
  • Have married or formed a legally recognized civil union with an Ecuadorian person;
  • Be a minor or a disabled person who depends on an Ecuadorian person or foreigner with permanent resident status;
  • Be related to an Ecuadorian person or permanent resident of Ecuador.

For the first two years from the date the visa is granted, those with a Permanent Residency Visa are not allowed to be out of the country for more than 180 days each year. Those who fail to comply with this requirement will be charged a hefty fine.

As with the Temporary Residency Visa health insurance requirements, those applying for a Permanent Residency Visa must also show proof of having private health insurance or be affiliated with the IESS.

Private health insurance or the IESS?

If you’re applying for a Temporary or Permanent Residency Visa, there are two health insurance options available:

  • Membership in the IESS
  • Obtain private health insurance

Here, we provide an overview of the two options:

IESS

Expats can choose to enroll in the IESS, which is paid for through contributions either by yourself, or by your employer (if you are employed). The cost is 17.6% of your income, and an additional 3.41% for your spouse or common law partner, as long as they have a cedula (national identification) number for registration. These percentages, for many expats, can be a considerable amount.

Public medical care is 100% free if you’re enrolled in the IESS, as long as you visit facilities that are contracted with the IESS. That said, sometimes IESS pharmacies may not have the medications that you require, meaning you may have to go to a non-IESS facility to purchase them.

What’s more, the quality of medical care provided by IESS facilities can vary significantly in Ecuador, with most high quality facilities located in large cities like Guayaquil. Healthcare standards in smaller towns and rural areas are often very poor. Combine this with the fact that the IESS can be restrictive for foreigners to be able to afford or utilize (not being Ecuadorian citizens themselves), and it is easy to see why so many expats prefer having private health insurance.

Private health insurance

Those looking for private health insurance can choose to obtain either a local or international policy. If you’re on a tight budget and rarely travel, a local plan may be the best option for you. Local plans are often much cheaper than international health insurance, primarily because it covers a lot less geographically. That said, expats and frequent travellers often prefer international health insurance to benefit from much greater flexibility and freedom in choosing where they can seek care. The cost of international health insurance in Ecuador can range from as little as USD 66 for a basic plan, to USD 942 for a more comprehensive plan with added benefits such as dental and maternity cover.

Looking for more information on Ecuador visa requirements?

To learn more about the new Ecuador visa requirements and your health insurance options, contact the helpful advisors at Pacific Prime today. Also feel free to have a look at our Ecuador page here for in-depth information on healthcare and health insurance in Ecuador.

What your company can do to tackle health insurance fraud

health insurance fraud article

Health insurance fraud is a serious problem for insurance providers and the greater health industry in general, amounting to “tens of billions of dollars” in losses every year. As discussed in our recently released Cost of International Health Insurance – 2017 report, healthcare fraud plays a significant role in driving up the cost of healthcare, and also leads to a subsequent rise in health insurance premiums. Here, we look at health insurance fraud and what can be done to minimize its impact.

What is health insurance fraud?

Medical insurance fraud can be defined asfalse or misleading information [that] is provided to a health insurance company in an attempt to have them pay unauthorized benefits to the policyholder‚ another party‚ or the entity providing services.

Simply put, insurance fraud is the act of misrepresenting facts or outright lying to make money from the health insurance system; potential offenders can be anyone – patients, doctors, hospitals, or even pharmacists. Popular examples of health insurance fraud include falsifying claims, misrepresenting the provider of service, and billing a non-covered service as a covered service.

There’s also abuse, which involves practices that are not deemed medically necessarily, or are outside acceptable standards of professional conduct, thus leading to unnecessary costs being paid (e.g. over-prescribing medications, ordering unnecessary tests, keeping patients at the hospital for longer than necessary).

The impact of health insurance fraud

There are many ways in which health insurance fraud can have an impact on employers and employees, including:

  • Increased health insurance premiums: Continuing challenges related to fraud is one of the main drivers behind increasing health insurance premiums. As premiums continue to increase, health insurance will quickly become unaffordable for both employers and individuals.
  • Cutbacks on benefits: As premiums become more costly, it is more likely that there will be cutbacks on the benefits included in employer-provided health insurance policies (e.g. the removal of dental cover, limits on who is covered, etc.
  • Increased copayments and deductibles: Copayments and deductibles are on the increase, as employees find themselves footing the bill for a higher proportion of their healthcare costs despite having insurance.

What can my company do to tackle fraud?

One of the most effective ways an employer can tackle health insurance fraud and abuse is by educating their employees. Employees should be aware of:

  • What is and isn’t covered by their group plan
  • What constitutes health insurance fraud and abuse
  • How fraud impacts employees and their benefits
  • How to spot fraud and abuse

Below is a checklist of what employees should keep their eyes on to protect themselves, their company, and the healthcare system at large from insurance fraud and abuse, and keep healthcare costs down for everyone:

  • Report any lost or stolen health insurance cards immediately
  • Fill out, sign and date one claim form at a time. Never sign empty or incomplete forms.
  • Always confirm the diagnosis and make sure it correlates with the information on the form
  • Question free offers (e.g. free tests, screenings, and treatments), especially when the healthcare provider asks for your insurance information
  • Know what’s covered and what is not covered by your health insurance
  • Alert the insurer of any suspected fraud or abuse

Partner with Pacific Prime today

By partnering with an insurance specialist like Pacific Prime, you’ll find that we not only help you source the most optimal group health insurance plan, but also answer any questions your employees may have regarding their benefits, or how to spot fraud. To learn more, contact our helpful advisors today, or check out our brand new corporate site.

The most and least expensive countries for private international health insurance

reading glasses on a map representing someone comparing international insurance companies

Just over a week ago, we announced the release of our Cost of International Health Insurance report for 2017. This annual study collects the prices of international plans in 100 different countries and compares them to give insurers, intermediaries, and consumers a better understanding of what their own premium costs are. This week, we’re looking at the data from our Cost of International Health Insurance report again and are interested in making some comparisons between international insurance companies with the highest and lowest costs.

What’s in the Cost of International Health Insurance report?

Each year, we prepare this report so that people will have an overview of the current state of international medical insurance. Using ten global insurances companies that represent 70% of the total number of plans sold worldwide, we consider the average prices per country, compare them within their region and against the world, and discuss the factors contributing to the costs of insurance for the past year.

In short, Pacific Prime believes that the four primary factors influencing the cost of international health insurance in most countries are:

  • Increased demand for international quality private care
  • Increased cost of health care
  • Increased regulation
  • Continuing challenges related to fraud

How these factors have an impact on how much people pay for insurance around the world is described in detail in the report. For more information, download your copy today.

The highs and lows: who’s got the most expensive and cheapest insurance around the regions?

The report also separates countries into five regions in order to make faster comparison between neighboring countries. These regions are Asia, Africa, the Americas, the Middle East, and Europe. Taking into account plan prices for individuals, couples, families, and retirees, here are the countries per region with the highest and lowest overall international insurance premium:

Asia

Asia is an interesting case for international insurance premiums. While China does feature near the more expensive end of our rankings, Singapore has finally moved one spot ahead of it to take second place for the first time in three years. The most expensive Asian country for international insurance continues to be Hong Kong, who also retains its place as the second most expensive country in the world.

On the other end of the spectrum, we see Pakistan rank as the least expensive Asian nation for international insurance, with Laos and the Philippines its closest rivals.

Most Expensive

Least Expensive
Hong Kong

Average premium cost:

USD 12,585

Pakistan

Average premium cost:

USD 7,391

Africa

Africa is a region where many of the lowest international insurance prices exist. This may be because of lower numbers of expats, the lower cost of healthcare, or a great unfamiliarity of the region’s health capabilities for insurers. In fact, the region’s country with the highest insurance premium average, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has a cost that’s little higher than the lowest average country in Asia. Côte d’Ivoire is the second most expensive country in Africa, followed by Cameroon as the third most expensive location.

The countries with lowest average international insurance in Africa are tied, with all three countries possessing the lowest prices worldwide. Ethiopia, Angola, and Mali may be similar as insurers may assess them similarly in terms of risk and apply a blanket premium price among them.

Most Expensive

Least Expensive
Democratic Republic of the Congo

Average premium cost:

USD 8,226

Ethiopia, Angola & Mali

Average premium cost:

USD 7,027

The Americas

With the Americas, it’s inevitable that the United States will leave the rest behind in terms of insurance costs. The country has the most expensive healthcare in the world. Canada, for the average cost of international plans, sits at second place with just over half the cost of the US. Argentina rounds out the top three.

The least expensive country in the Americas for international health insurance is Panama, though it should be said that there is very little difference in the cost of insurance in South American countries.

Most Expensive

Least Expensive
United States of America

Average premium cost:

USD 19,274

Panama

Average premium cost:

USD 8,137

The Middle East

Regional insurance comparisons in the Middle East have been significantly impacted by legal changes in one of the region’s most popular expatriate locations; Dubai. New mandatory insurance laws have made predicting where premiums might head for the Emirate tricky, although Dubai still sits as second most expensive behind Israel. Israel itself is the 5th most expensive country in the world for international health insurance.

Azerbaijan, however, is the region’s least expensive country for insurance premiums.

Most Expensive

Least Expensive
Israel

Average premium cost:

USD 9,989

Azerbaijan

Average premium cost:

USD 7,248

Europe

Considering the number of countries included in the Europe comparisons (25 in total), there is a wide variety of international insurance plan prices across the board. The United Kingdom stands as the most expensive location for international health insurance in Europe, and is also the 7th highest overall in the world. Greece and Russia take spots two and three for most expensive.

At the other end of the scale, Poland, Ukraine, and Serbia make up the least expensive locations, with Serbia the lowest ranked overall and 79th when compared globally.

Most Expensive

Least Expensive
United Kingdom

Average premium cost:

USD 12,585

Serbia

Average premium cost:

USD 7,077

Pacific Prime: simplifying insurance

At Pacific Prime, we’re committed to ensuring that our clients get the best service possible. This means also proving that we’re market leaders in not just selling insurance, but in understanding the market and the people within it. As a result, there are a range of guides and infographics we’ve produced to help you make the best insurance decision possible for yourself, your family, or your company.

If you want to see the Cost of International Health Insurance Report 2017 for yourself, click here to download. There you can find out more about the countries we’ve analysed, the international insurance companies we’ve used for our comparisons, and the drivers we think are impacting the costs of insurance worldwide. For a free quote or some helpful advice, contact the team at Pacific Prime today.

Key metrics for the success of your group health plan

Group of people discussing their group health plan

Regardless of your industry, there are a number of components that make up the core of the most successful employment benefits packages, one of the most important (and in demand) being health insurance. The question here is how can you or your HR team judge the success of your plan while ensuring it is meeting the needs of your employees? Here, we discuss 7 key metrics that you can employ to help you gauge the success of your group health plan.

Metric 1 – Loss ratio

Calculated by taking the amount you pay (your premium) and dividing it by the amount the insurer pays out in claims, this ratio is essential in determining the health of your plan and is often used in calculating premium increases.

As an HR professional, knowing the ratio of your health plan and comparing it with industry standards can help provide you with a sound negotiation tool when it comes to negotiating premium increases or even coverage elements. In some cases, your current and historical loss ratio can even be used to provide a ballpark estimate on future premiums or premium increases.

Learn more about loss ratios in this article from Pacific Prime Hong Kong.  

Metric 2 – Average claims per member

Calculated by taking the number of claims submitted by the number of employees covered this will tell you, on average, how many claims are submitted each year by your employees. Comparing this to either an industry benchmark or historical average, this can gauge the overall utilization and satisfaction with your group health insurance plan.  

Tracking this metric also generates a wealth of useful group health plan data that can be used to help you not only better understand plan utilization. It also acts as a litmus test that can help to identify problems. For example, by tracking and analyzing the claims submitted by each person we are often able to help HR identify individuals who claim more than average along with individuals who are submitting costly claims.

From there, we help HR teams to work with these employees to help ensure they are receiving the support they need while ensuring claims do not massively impact the loss ratio.

Beyond that, this data can also help to uncover where your employees prefer to receive care. This information can be used to try to steer employees away from certain high-cost providers, or to identify whether the plan is actually meeting their health needs.

Metric 3 – Insurer/broker response time and claims processing time

Time, as you know, is money. Spending hours a day or month on chasing insurers or brokers for information or replying to employees who are having issues with plans can be not only frustrating but also take you away from working on other, possibly more important tasks. This is where this metric can help.

In truth, this metric can actually be made up of a number of similar metrics that when combined help you judge the overall level of service you are getting from an insurer. You can then compare this to your company and employee’s needs and judge whether the plan you have is actually working.

For example, many companies we work with will track things like number of claims vs broker/insurer response time, number of claims vs average time to settle a claim, number of claims vs employee complaints, and most importantly, when the insurer broker communicates.

Generally speaking, insurers with lower premiums will tend to have lower levels of service. Securing a plan like this will often save you money upfront, but if you have to spend half your day calling the insurer, not getting answers, waiting weeks for claims to be settled, waiting weeks for new members to be added, or old members to be removed, etc, you could end up actually paying more in the long run.

It is important to measure when the insurer or broker communicates important information to allow you to make timely decisions. For example, if they take a long time to provide claims details or renewal information this could leave you with little to no breathing room to find better coverage or negotiate for better premiums.

Metric 4 – The number of people covered by the group health plan

Commonly referred to by insurers as ‘participation rate’, this metric looks at the number of employees insured by a plan versus the number of employees eligible for the plan (achieved by dividing number of employees insured by number of eligible employees) and will often compare this percentage with a benchmark for similar businesses. In practice, this metric will actually vary for each company and is normally adapted to meet the type of insurance plan you have selected.

For example, in our experience, many companies are securing group health plans that cover inpatient care only. If an employee wants additional coverage for outpatient care the company will usually cover a percentage of the premium, say 50-80%.

Looking at the number of people who are securing additional coverage or have utilized extra coverage then comparing this to industry benchmarks can be a solid indicator as to the overall success of your plan. If you find that a higher percentage of employees are selecting to add additional coverage than the benchmark this will likely point to the fact that your plan is not being perceived by employees as useful. This, in turn, means it might be worth looking into upping benefits offered by your plan.  

Metric 5 – The ratio of dependents covered by your group health plan

This is certainly a metric that will not be used by all companies, but that said, it is an incredibly important metric for companies who extend their health insurance plan to employee’s dependents.

Calculated by taking the total number of participants and dividing it by the number of employees covered, this ratio can help determine whether you are covering more or less employee’s dependents.

It is important as, in our experience, it is often dependents who have the highest number of claims. This is especially true for children who are covered by the plan as children will statistically have to visit the doctor more often. In turn, this could have adverse effects on premiums your company pays.

If you find that you are ensuring more dependents per employee than is standard it might be worth looking into your plan and seeing whether this is having an impact on your premiums or claims.

Metric 6 – Employee demographics

This metric, calculated by looking at the number of employees and breaking them down into groups such as age, sex, location, etc., can be a major help in the search for group health plans and determining the overall satisfaction with it.

For example, knowing your the age groups of your employees can help you determine what types of cover will be most utilized and the potential medical issues your staff may seek care for. You can then search for plans that meet some of these needs or work to set expectations with existing plans.

Metric 7 – Questions asked  

Like some of the above metrics, this is really more of a series of different related measurements that can be tracked to help you with your plan. For example, by tracking the number of questions asked by new plan joiners, the number of questions asked by more senior staff, etc. you can gauge exactly how engaged people are with the plan.

If you see that new employees ask a fair number of questions regarding health benefits then it is probably a good indicator that there is confusion with the plan and better explanations/onboarding is needed.

It would also pay to track the types of questions asked and by whom. For example, if your team is getting a lot of questions about claims or benefit limits you this indicates that you might be spending an inordinate amount of time answering questions that could be avoided through better documentation. Beyond that, certain questions like “Can I keep my own doctor” could point to demand for a better provider network or potential areas where employees could be unhappy with the plan.

How can I set benchmarks and implement these group health plan metrics?

One of the best ways you or your HR team can implement and track the above metrics is to actually work with a broker like Pacific Prime. In truth, the majority of the above metrics are actually part of our corporate insurance service that we offer to all companies. Our team of corporate insurance experts strive to work with your business to ensure you and your employees have the most optimal coverage while reducing the amount of time you spend managing the plan and answering questions.

To learn more about our group health plan service, visit our new corporate site today.

New report focuses on the average cost of international health insurance

2017 Cost of International Health Insurance Report

Pacific Prime is excited to announce the release of our latest report: The 2017 Cost of International Health Insurance. Now in its third iteration, this free report takes an in depth look at the average cost of international health insurance in 100 countries around the globe. Download your copy from our website today.

As with previous versions, this year’s report is divided into sections that together provide an important overview of the current state of international health insurance and the factors contributing to the costs seen in 2017. This information, in turn, has proven to be a useful tool for both companies and individuals looking to get the most out of their health insurance.

Open version of the cost of international health insurance report

Section 1: Ranking the top 20 most expensive and bottom 5 least expensive locations

The first section of this report provides a brief overview of the average cost of health insurance and ranks the 20 most expensive locations along with the 5 least expensive locations. Before we look at this ranking, it is important to explain the data used to generate this report.

To generate these averages and provide readers with a sound benchmark we have combined data from 10 of the top international health insurers who each offer three levels of plan:

  • Plan 1: Inpatient cover only
  • Plan 2: Inpatient + outpatient cover
  • Plan 3: Inpatient + outpatient + maternity

For each plan we have pulled premiums for four major demographics:

  • Individuals: Male, aged 36
  • Couples: Male aged 36, Female aged 35
  • Families: Male aged 46, Female aged 35, and two children aged 10 and 5  
  • Retirees: Male, aged 60

By taking the premiums for each of the demographics above along with the three levels of plan and averaging them together for each country we have come up with our ranking for 2017.

This year, average premiums are spread out from between USD 19,724 and USD 7,027 with the US again taking top spot as the most expensive country for international health insurance: Angola, Ethiopia, and Mali are all tied as having the least expensive average premiums.

Click here to view the ranking on our website. We have also provided the full ranking based on the demographics above in the Appendix section of the PDF, which can be downloaded here.

Section 2: In-depth analysis on the cost of international health insurance

When analyzing this year’s premiums we uncovered six major findings, which are discussed in-depth in the Analysis section of the report:

  1. Premiums in the US increased by an average of nearly 14% from 2016 to 2017.
  2. Singapore has replaced China as having the third highest average premiums.
  3. South East Asia has seen a marked increase in ranking in 2017, with 5 countries ranked in the top 20.
  4. Average premiums in Dubai actually decreased in ranking slightly in 2017.
  5. A number of countries saw a decrease in average cost between 2016 and 2017.
  6. Many countries have the same average premium.

For each of these six major findings, we have included an analysis of why these are important and the factors behind them.

Aside from that, we have also included an update on the four primary global drivers behind the cost of health insurance. These four drivers being:

  • There is an increasing demand for international quality health care.
  • Almost every country in this report has seen an increase in the cost of health care.
  • There is a trend of increasing regulation in many countries and regions included in this report.
  • Many countries and insurers face continuing challenges related to fraud.

Two versions of the report

We have two versions of this report available. The first is the online version which presents a paired down look at the ranking and first part of the Analysis sections along with an interactive overview of the average costs in different regions.

The second is the full written report in PDF format which can be downloaded. This version includes our full analysis (the four drivers along with the six findings) along with a complete ranking of the average cost of international health insurance in each of the 100 countries for each of the demographics.

Where to get your copy of the 2017 Cost of International Health Insurance Report

As mentioned above, there are two versions of the report available. Both are free and can be found on our website, or by clicking the links below:

Download the PDF – https://www.pacificprime.com/cohi-2017/download/

Read the online version – https://www.pacificprime.com/cohi-2017/

Should you have any questions about the cost of health insurance, or your premiums, please do contact us. Our expert staff can help you find the best plan for your budget today.