Pacific Prime Wins Bupa 2016 Innovative Excellence Award

The Pacific Prime China team at Bupa's award showcase

(Hong Kong, March 6, 2017) Pacific Prime is proud to announce that leading insurance provider Bupa Global has awarded Pacific Prime with the Bupa 2016 Innovative Excellence award at the 2017 Bupa Global Greater China Distributor and Partner Conference.

The Bupa 2016 Innovative Excellence award was presented to Pacific Prime in recognition of their latest achievement as the brokerage that displayed the most innovative sales and marketing strategy in the Asia region in 2016.

Neil Raymond, Managing Director at Pacific Prime, commented: “We are honored to receive such prestigious industry recognition, as meeting the needs of our clients and the industry are integral to everything that we do. By leveraging our 17 years’ experience in the industry, the innovative solutions that we provide to individual and corporate clients are at the forefront of the insurance industry.” 

The Bupa award for innovative excelence awarded to Pacific PrimeThis prestigious award took into account Pacific Prime’s bespoke approach to delivering an outstanding customer service experience, which is backed by their ‘Broker Framework Model’, a holistic value system that embodies all aspects of the firm’s consulting, policy broking, and plan administration strategy. Pacific Prime’s innovative approach to individual and corporate sales is also backed by dedicated sales and renewals teams, and further streamlined by their state-of-the art CRM system.

Bupa Global further recognized Pacific Prime’s innovative excellence in marketing, particularly their dedication to releasing insightful industry reports on International Private Medical Insurance, including the Cost of International Health Insurance Report 2016, and the International Private Medical Insurance Inflation 2017 report. Besides further establishing Pacific Prime’s reputation as a key knowledge leader in the insurance industry, the reports help customers to make more informed purchasing decisions and act as a valuable benchmark that allows insurers to see what other providers in the industry are doing.

Sheldon Kenton, Managing Director at Bupa Global, commented: “Pacific Prime has consistently pushed the envelope in terms of maximizing their digital customer relevance and natural search authority via in depth reports on the industry, a very clear and consistent target customer focus and smart content marketing. I congratulate them on this well deserved award.”

Pacific Prime has worked in partnership with Bupa Global for over 13 years, and these awards are a continued reflection on the longstanding, successful relationship between two major players in the insurance industry. On this, Raymond expanded saying, “Pacific Prime continues to push for innovation and taking a proactive approach to helping our clients, and have been recognized by Bupa and most of the insurers on the market for our continued high level of consulting and servicing provided to individuals and groups throughout the world.” 

About Pacific Prime

Headquartered in Hong Kong, Pacific Prime is an award-winning insurance intermediary that leverages its longstanding partnerships with over 60 leading insurance providers to provide the best value insurance services and products to individual and group clients. For more information, visit:

Pacific Prime looks at international medical insurance inflation

Cover of the 2017 medical insurance inflation report

We are proud to announce our latest report focusing on medical insurance inflation has been released. Titled, International Private Medical Insurance Inflation -2017 this report (available for free here), like previous years takes a look at private insurance premiums around the world and what’s driving them up. Again, we look at the insurance products of eight global insurers that offer the same products in 10 selected regions around the world.

In this blog post, we’re going to briefly highlight some key points from the report. The report itself will be of high interest to individual and corporate clients who are watching their budgets, while insurers and brokers (corporate brokers and individual brokers) alike may use the information to help inform their clients about the cost of insurance around the world.

Key results

The new report shows that the average percentage increase of IPMI around the world was 9.2%. While being exactly the same as 2015’s inflation rate, the IPMI report also shows which insurers came in this year with the lower average premium increase worldwide, and the average for the last five years:

Top 3 Global Insurers with Lowest Average Premium Increase (2017):

Top 3 Global Insurers with Lowest Average Premium Increase (2009-2016):

  • Aetna International – (InterGlobal)
  • Allianz Worldwide Care
  • William Russell

It should be noted that these are not the insurers with the lowest premium prices, but those whose rate of premium price inflation was the lowest in the areas the report focuses on.

Drivers of inflation

Again, the IPMI report focuses on some key factors that positively or negatively impacted the rate of premium inflation for this past year. Across the regions (Asia, the Middle East, and the Rest of the World), Pacific Prime found that the drivers present in previous reports were still relevant for this year:

  • New medical technology
  • An imbalance of healthcare resources
  • Increased compensation for healthcare professionals
  • Healthcare overutilization

In addition to this, three new drivers have been proposed as having the potential to significantly impact premium increases in the future:

  • Unstable economies (New for 2017)
  • Changing population dynamics (New for 2017)
  • The increasing availability of technology (New for 2017)

These newer drivers take into account the tougher economic times the world has been facing and explain how the population of insurance consumers has been impacted in the various regions. Places like Hong Kong and Singapore have noticed a clearer division in the age and experience of expats arriving to their shores, while countries like Indonesia and the UAE have noticed a significant shrinking of expat numbers.

The impact of technology in monitoring, analysis and creating efficiencies in the insurance sector are another new driver. While it was expected to have a significant impact on the price of IPMI insurance, the report has found that insurers are still some way from fully realizing the benefits of technology. Wearable tech and big data use is still in its infancy, yet many insurance companies are making headway with online portals and smartphone apps.

Major change from previous reports

Another feature of this year’s IPMI report is that Dubai has been significantly changed by its 2015 introduction of compulsory health insurance laws. Over the past year, all residents (local citizens and expatriates alike) have been required to obtain a minimum level of health insurance coverage. Those not complying are soon due to face fines for not meeting the new laws.

In the report, the usual Dubai section has been replaced with a discussion on how these changes have impacted both insurers and their products in the UAE. Some insurers have chosen not to replace the IPMI offerings that were found to be non-compliant with the new laws, while those that did replace their plans had premiums driven by the law change as opposed to the inflation drivers affecting the rest of the world.

The International Private Medical Insurance Inflation Report 2017

The  International Private Medical Insurance Inflation 2017 report is available as a free download, directly from the Pacific Prime website. An online version of the report, complete with interactive graphs and sections, is also available here. View the report today. 

Pacific Prime signs partnership agreement with Bahrain-based broker Protection Insurance Services

Pacific Prime and Protection Insurance Services logos

(Hong Kong, November 28, 2016) Pacific Prime, a leading global insurance advisor, is proud to announce a new strategic partnership with Protection Insurance Services, a leading insurance and reinsurance broking firm headquartered in Bahrain. This agreement will see both companies extend their operations within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and in other regions across the globe.

Providing mutual benefits to both parties, this exclusive partnership, finalized on November 17, 2016, now enables Pacific Prime to provide their services in the territories covered by Protection Insurance Service’s licence, and vice versa. For Pacific Prime, this means that they can now write business in KSA, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait, markets that they were not licensed to quote for business in, up until now.

“In partnership with Protection Insurance Services, Pacific Prime will expand its footprint across the GCC. We look forward to a long and fruitful relationship between the two companies” said Maria Loughran, Corporate Account Manager at Pacific Prime’s Abu Dhabi division, Medstar Insurance Brokers LLC. “Protection Insurance Services is a client centric brokerage, and as such, make for an ideal partner for our business. The values and ethical behavior of both brokerages align perfectly and both companies operate with the core value that; The client is at the heart of everything that we do.”

Protection Insurance Services has over 20 years of significant expertise in a comprehensive range of marine and non-marine insurance broking, consulting and claims-handling services, and as such, Pacific Prime sees this partnership as a unique opportunity to acquire deep insights into the industries that they operate in.

CEO of Protection Insurance Services, Samy Aziz, commented: “We at Protection Insurance Services are very excited about this partnership with Pacific Prime Middle East as it will strengthen relationships with our clients and insurance companies. We’re thrilled to be Pacific Prime’s partner while building upon our extensive experience, and bringing that robust expertise into the Employee Benefits insurance market.”

About Pacific Prime

Headquartered in Hong Kong, Pacific Prime International Limited is a leading international health insurance advisor that leverages its close relationships with over 60 leading insurance companies to provide the best value insurance services and products to individuals and corporations. With offices strategically located in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the UAE, Pacific Prime principally offers advice on international health insurance, business insurance and life insurance. For more information, visit:

About Protection Insurance Services W.L.L

Founded in 1996, Protection Insurance Services W.L.L is a leading insurance and reinsurance broking firm with sound reputation among the insurance community in the Kingdom of Bahrain. The company provides international specialized insurance, reinsurance services (including takaful and retakaful), and advisory services across the region of MENA, parts of Africa, the Indian Subcontinent and Asia. For more information, visit:


Pacific Prime, an expert in insurance and healthcare, secures contract with one of the largest designer eyewear e-retailers: The SmartBuyGlasses Optical Group

SmartBuyGlasses and Pacific Prime Logo

The SmartBuyGlasses Optical Group turns to Pacific Prime to help manage their global health insurance needs.

Eyewear and healthcare go hand-in-hand, and that is why The SmartBuyGlasses Optical Group has established a collaborative partnership with Pacific Prime. Operating in over 30 countries, The SmartBuyGlasses group has employees from over 30 different countries and 15 different languages meaning an expert insurance provider is a must.

This newly established partnership goes beyond an insurance provider for SmartBuyGlasses’s international employees. With the E-retailer recently celebrating 10 years of expertise, it enables SmartBuyGlasses to share with Pacific Prime deep insights into the eye health industry, along with the latest products and services available, which in turn can be passed onto Pacific Prime clients when they encounter specific eye health issues.

This is the start of a flourishing relationship between the two health-orientated companies with both organizations having the same company core values of providing their customers with the best health expertise, product and service for their needs. Doron Kalinko, CEO and Co-founder of SmartBuyGlasses Optical Group remarks ‘I am very excited about the new partnership with Pacific Prime, we have been looking for an expert insurance provider and feel the partnership has huge benefits for both our employees and customers. I am looking forward to developing this collaboration over the next few years’

To find out more visit SmartBuyGlasses or Pacific Prime.


For further press information, case studies, or interviews, please contact Julia Ritchie Global PR manager for SmartBuyGlasses Optical Group at [email protected]

About The SmartBuyGlasses Optical Group

The SmartBuyGlasses Optical Group, operated by Motion Global Ltd is the world’s leading online designer eyewear destination with operations across Asia Pacific, Europe and the Americas. Since 2006, SmartBuyGlasses has empowered customers in over 30 countries to shop their own style and find what they love by offering over 180 brands and 80,000 different products.

About Pacific Prime

Pacific Prime, in operation for 16+ years, offers a wide range of international health insurance plans and cover for individuals, families, and organizations around the world.

With a multicultural team of skilled and qualified professionals, Pacific Prime makes it simple for you to find the best insurance. All insurance plans are backed up with expert advice which encompasses policy selection, claims handling, administration, and policy renewal all offered free of charge.

PP’s Neil Raymond featured in new IPMI interview

Globe to showcase IPMI

Over the past couple of years, Pacific Prime has been striving to launch an increasing number of beneficial reports on the International Private Medical Insurance (IPMI) industry. Our latest report published in the summer of 2016, the 2016 Cost of Health Insurance Report, has enabled clients and industry professionals alike to gain greater understanding of the cost of health insurance around the world and the major contributors driving these prices.

One of the biggest findings from this report is the fact that the US is once again the highest cost location for international health insurance. While there are many factors that contribute to the high cost of medical insurance in the US, one thing we highlight in the report is the fact that the Affordable Care Act has had a huge influence on what you can expect to pay for insurance.

ACA and international coverage

Since its implementation in 2014 many international insurers have been working on getting plans launched that not only meet the strict ACA mandates but also provide both inbound and outbound American tax payers worldwide health coverage.

In early November, a new international health plan that provides international coverage while also being ACA compliant was launched from Cigna. We believe that this is the start of a new trend and as such have created a new ACA information portal. This portal is designed to provide both inbound and outbound taxpayers everything they need to know about the mandated health insurance coverage.

What are Pacific Prime’s thoughts on the ACA and the cost of health insurance?

In the insurance industry, the release of the cost of health insurance report and the introduction of ACA compliant plans for international expats and residents has created a number of talking points, especially around how these will impact one another.

To that end, Pacific Prime’s CEO and Founder Neil Raymond sat down with Global Health Insider for an exclusive interview on the topic. The interview, available to read now on their website, covers a wide variety of topics including:

  • The recent launching of an ACA-compliant international health insurance plan.
  • Key findings from our latest cost of health insurance report.
  • Dubai’s rise to prominence in the international health industry.
  • Important IPMI trends
  • And more.

Check out the interview now for an exclusive in-depth look in at international health insurance.  

What expats need to know about the Affordable Care Act

'Murica flag to represent Affordable Care Act insurance

In our latest report on the cost of health insurance, we found that the US is the single most expensive location on earth for health insurance. One of the main reasons why the US is so costly is the fact that healthcare is so expensive, meaning that people essentially need health insurance if they plan on visiting a doctor in the US. It is primarly because of this fact that the US government took steps to drastically overhaul the healthcare system in the US. The major outcome of this overhaul is the Affordable Care Act (ACA). If you are an expat considering moving to the US or will be moving there shortly, there are a number of things you need to be aware of regarding the ACA.

What exactly is the ACA?

The Affordable Care Act, officially called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), commonly referred to as ‘Obamacare‘, was enacted in 2010 with the goal of lowering the uninsured rate, increasing insurance quality and affordability, and generally decreasing the burden of healthcare costs for people in the USA.

In order to achieve this, the US government set out a number of mandates, two of the most important being aimed at insurers and individuals. For insurers, the ACA states that they must accept all applicants, cover a set list of conditions (including many pre-existing conditions), and charge the same premiums for all applicants.

For individuals, the ACA mandates that you are required to secure compliant insurance plans should you not have one provided by either your employer or a public insurance plan. Interestingly, the fact that you ACA compliant plan is proven via one’s tax returns, and should you not have the required level of coverage, you could be slapped with hefty fines.   

Who needs to secure ACA plans?

When it comes to the ACA there are two major groups who are required to secure ACA compliant plans: Individuals and companies. Where there can be some confusion around the ACA is inbound and outbound expats, and whether you are expected to secure a compliant plan or not.

The ACA mandate for companies

According to the IRS, if your company employs more than 50 people, you are required to provide ACA compliant health insurance to at least 95% of full-time employees and their dependants under the age of 26.

Should you have fewer than 50 employees, you are not actually required to provide health insurance coverage to them. Rather, it is encouraged that you do. In order to help cover the costs of health insurance for these smaller groups, the IRS does offer tax rebates and options for offsetting the cost of providing health insurance.

For more information on the ACA for employers, check out the IRS website here.

The ACA mandate for individuals and their families

Generally speaking, all individuals who pay tax in the US are required to also secure an ACA compliant plan either through their employer or through insurance marketplaces should their employer not provide health insurance coverage. This mandate also extends to spouses and dependents under the age of 26.

In other words, if you are required to submit a tax return with the IRS, then you are more than likely required to also have secured ACA compliant health insurance, or you will have to pay a fine. Of course, there are a number of exemptions, which are explained in great detail in this PDF from the Congressional Research Service. You can also visit the IRS’s ACA for individuals website, which has an interview that helps determine whether you are exempt from this mandate or not.

The ACA individual mandate and expats

Being an expat who is either going to the US or will be leaving the US for work overseas, it can be confusing as to whether or not you are required to secure an ACA compliant plan, especially due to the fact that the US has historically strict tax laws.

As an outbound expat (someone who is a US citizen, but will be leaving for work overseas), you are still legally required to have an ACA compliant plan if you live abroad for 330 days a year or less. Should you go for, say, six months and then return, you will still need a compliant plan. For those who do spend the majority of the year outside of the US (more than 330 days), you are deemed to have an ACA compliant plan, and can tick the relevant box when you file your tax return.

As an inbound expat, if you are paying taxes in the US and spend more than 35 days a year in the US, you will be required to secure a compliant plan. The key thing to stress here is that this mandate applies to US citizens, legal US residents, resident aliens and non-resident aliens required to file tax forms. Some students and diplomats are exempt from the mandate, but the vast majority of inbound expats will need a compliant insurance plan.

What happens if I don’t secure a compliant plan?

The US government officially follows what they refer to as a “play or pay” policy when it comes to the ACA and the securing of plans. If you do not secure a plan that meets the requirements set out by the government, you will be fined. Of course, in the US nothing is ever fully ‘mandatory’. You will not be arrested or deported should you not have a compliant plan, you will just have to pay the fine.

For businesses these fines are referred to by the IRS as “Employer Shared Responsibility Provisions,” and the fine will vary depending on the situation. For example, if you have over 50 full-time employees and do not offer health insurance to at least 95% of your employees you will be fined at least USD 2,000 per employee with the first 30 employees not being counted. More information on the fines can be found here.

Individuals who do not report adequate coverage will be similarly fined, or as the IRS puts it, you will be required to “Make a Shared Responsibility Payment”. The exact amount will vary based on a number of conditions, including your annual salary, dependants, etc. You can learn more about this payment here.

Can I secure a plan before I leave for the US?

As an expat heading to or leaving the US, there is a good chance you will be returning to your home country for a vacation at least once a year. Historically, if you wanted to have coverage in your home country and in the US, you would be required to have both an ACA compliant plan and an international health insurance plan primarily because many insurers who offer global health insurance plans do not meet requirements set by the ACA.

As of November 1, 2016 however, Pacific Prime is pleased to announce that we will have an international health insurance solution that offers not only worldwide coverage, but also will be ACA compliant. This plan, offered by Cigna Global, can be a great option for any expat moving to the US, as well as expats leaving the US for a position abroad.

Visit our Cigna International Health Insurance page on this exciting new plan to learn more today.

A story about pneumonia

Pneumonia virus

Did you know that according to the WHO “Pneumonia accounts for 15% of all deaths of children under 5 years old, killing 920,136 children in 2015.”? But it’s not just children who are affected, as you have probably read in the past few weeks a certain American presidential nominee was said to be suffering from a form of pneumonia, once again bringing this serious condition to prominence. While it has largely been shaken off by the aforementioned candidate, pneumonia is a condition that should be taken seriously, as one of our colleagues found out a few years ago. In this article we take a look at pneumonia, share our colleague’s experience with the infection, and the condition’s link with health insurance.


What exactly is pneumonia?

Pneumonia is a term used to describe an acute infection of the lungs, most commonly caused by either a virus, bacteria, fungi, or aspiration of material into the lungs. This infection results in the alveoli (sacks in our lungs that allow the transfer of oxygen and carbon dioxide into and out of the lungs) filling with fluid, which in turn makes it hard for us to breathe.

Because there are a number of different causes of pneumonia, doctors will typically try to differentiate the infection into a number of different types, which will then dictate treatment. The most common types of pneumonia include:

  • Community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) – This term is used to describe pneumonia caught in public spaces i.e., not the hospital or care center. An infection developed during a cold or flu is also usually labeled as community-acquired pneumonia.  
  • Hospital-acquired pneumonia – Pneumonia contracted while you are in the hospital. The vast majority of cases of hospital-acquired pneumonia develop while you are in the hospital for another health issue e.g., surgery or long-term care.
  • Viral pneumonia – Pneumonia caused by a viral infection that can be contracted either at the hospital or in the community. One of the most common causes of viral pneumonia is the respiratory syncytial virus. Like other viral infections, antibiotics won’t usually help patients recover.
  • Bacterial pneumonia – Like viral pneumonia, this can be contracted both in the community and in healthcare centers, but this type of pneumonia is caused by bacteria. According to Everyday Health, “60 percent of all CAP cases are caused by bacteria called Streptococcus pneumonia, also known as pneumococcal pneumonia.”  
  • Fungal pneumonia – A type of pneumonia caused by a fungal infection or the inhalation of fungi, and is most commonly seen in patients with other underlying health issues such as those with an immunocompromised/immunosuppressed system.  
  • Aspirated pneumonia – Pneumonia that is caused by inhaling a foreign object into the lungs such as food, liquid, or even gastric material such as stomach acid. This is commonly treated like viral pneumonia, with antibiotics.    
  • Walking pneumonia – Also commonly referred to as atypical pneumonia, this is essentially any form of pneumonia that doctors deem not serious enough for hospitalization. In other words, it is a milder form of pneumonia.  


What are the common symptoms?

There are actually two common sets of symptoms with most types of pneumonia: bacterial pneumonia and non-bacterial pneumonia. Should you develop the symptoms below, it is advisable to consult with a doctor or go to the hospital if they are serious enough. Doctors will usually do a blood test and an x-ray to see if there is fluid in your lungs. Tests will then be run to confirm what type of pneumonia you have. From there you may be admitted to the hospital or given antibiotics.  


Symptoms of bacterial pneumonia

While these symptoms may be different for each patient, most people will notice:

  • A productive cough with phlegm that is green or rusty in color. There may also be blood in the phlegm.
  • Fever.
  • Strong chills that lead to teeth chattering.
  • Shortness of breath with fast shallow breaths.
  • Pain in their chest, especially whey they breathe in.
  • Feeling tired and drained of energy.
  • Nausea.
  • Night sweats or excessive sweating at night.  

For many people who contract bacterial pneumonia, the symptoms will usually come on seemingly all at once and will commonly start during or just after a cold, flu, or upper respiratory tract infection.


Symptoms of nonbacterial pneumonia

For most cases, the symptoms of nonbacterial pneumonia will actually feel quite similar to a cold or flu and will commonly include:

  • Light fever.
  • Dry cough with little to no phlegm.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Headache.
  • Muscle pain or weakness.

The main difference here is that, while cold and flu symptoms will tend to lessen after a couple of days, these symptoms stay or even get worse as time goes on. For example, you may find it harder and harder to breathe, your cough gets worse, and fever increases. Other times, you may not even know you’ve had pneumonia, this is what doctors refer to as walking pneumonia.


Is pneumonia contagious?

No, and Yes. The vast majority of common pneumonia are not actually contagious. If someone you know is diagnosed with it, it does not mean that you too will catch it. Instead, it is the viruses or bacteria that cause pneumonia that are contagious. If you are exposed to the virus or bacteria, then you could get sick and could see pneumonia develop if your body can’t fight the illness.


Our colleague’s experience with pneumonia

When discussing this article and the situation that sparked the idea to cover it, we found that one of our colleagues on the marketing team actually had an interesting bout of pneumonia a few years ago. Here is his story:

“In April 2012, a few months after I had moved to Bangkok from Hong Kong for a new job. I had settled into Bangkok nicely and was enjoying the city, but had to return to Hong Kong for a visa run. About a week before my trip back to Hong Kong I caught a pretty nasty cold and spent a few days in bed recovering. It was one day before my flight and I felt better, so I decided not to postpone my trip. This, I believe, turned out to be a major mistake!

On my flight to Hong Kong, I was sat beside a guy who sounded like he had a miserable cold. A nasty, near constant cough, the continuous blowing of his nose, etc. More than once he sneezed without covering his mouth and I am fairly certain I was exposed to his germs. That night I felt ok and went out to catch up with old friends from Hong Kong. By the end of the night, however, I was feeling like another cold was coming on and decided to get some extra sleep.

Throughout the weekend, the symptoms digressed and I really felt like the cold was in my chest. By Sunday night I remember feeling extremely tired, it was hard to breathe, I felt nauseous, and I certainly had a fever. I took some Panadol cold medication to try and break the fever and went to bed at 6:00 pm, thinking a good night’s sleep would do the trick, as I had to fly back to Bangkok the next day.  

I vividly remember waking up at around midnight with the sheets soaking wet from head to toe. I thought to myself that this was great, the fever had broken and I was just ‘sweating it out’ as I changed the sheets and went back to sleep. The next morning, Monday, I woke up feeling worse but decided that I felt well enough to fly back to Bangkok where I could take a few days off at home and rest.  

That flight back to Bangkok was one of the worst flights I have ever taken. My breathing had somehow gotten worse with a dull pain whenever I took a breath and my fever was back. By the time I got back to my condo in Bangkok I was exhausted and was now coughing up phlegm, but I decided to just go to bed instead of going to the hospital.

The next morning, I woke up and coughed up some phlegm. As I spit it out into the sink, I noticed that there was a blood in the phlegm. My exact thought being “Hmm, that shouldn’t be there. I think I should go to the hospital.” My next thought was “Which hospital do I go to? I can’t speak Thai.”  

Luckily, my uncle also lived in Bangkok at the time, so I called him and he instructed me to go to Samitivej Hospital, one of the international hospitals in the city. I checked into the hospital, filled out the paperwork and sat down where they told me to. A few minutes later a nurse came along and asked me to explain my symptoms, which I did:

  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Phlegm with blood
  • Chest pain when I breathe in
  • Extremely weak and tired.

She got a very, very worried look on her face and immediately called a wheelchair over. I was taken right into the doctor’s office at the pulmonary ward and given a chest x-ray along with a blood test. Reviewing the x-ray, the doctor told me that I had a fever of just under 38 degrees along with a worrying amount of fluid in my lower right lung (in other words pneumonia). I was subsequently admitted to hospital for three nights and then told to take three weeks off of work to recover. I was also diagnosed with asthma, which I still have to take an inhaler daily to keep under control.

Now, you are probably asking “Why didn’t I go see the doctor in Hong Kong? Why did I wait so long to see a doctor in Bangkok?” Well, the answer to that is that I did not actually have health insurance. Through a slip-up at my new company, my company-sponsored health insurance application was not actually submitted when it should have been, which meant I had not received coverage before I got sick.

At the time, I was not making a lot of money and knew I couldn’t afford a hospital visit, even in Thailand. Because of this, I ended up having to borrow money from my uncle to cover the costs of care, which came to THB 55,000 (almost double my monthly salary at the time). To make matters worse, when my insurance application was accepted (after I recovered) the insurer denied coverage of asthma due to the fact that it was a pre-existing condition. All of this could have been avoided if I had health insurance.

Yes, it was from this experience I learnt a valuable lesson the hard way: If you are going to move countries, ensure that you have health insurance in place before you move. The cost of securing an international health insurance plan may seem like a steep investment, but it pales in comparison with potential medical bills. I wish I had known of Pacific Prime before I left Hong Kong!”

If you would like to learn more about your health insurance options before you move countries or even jobs, contact Pacific Prime today.  

Allergies in Asia

Cleaning for allergens

It all starts with a night out with your family. Things are going well until your youngest child starts to complain that their throat itches and skin feels itchy. Then within a matter of minutes their lips and eyes have puffed up, they are having trouble breathing, and you see hives breaking out all over their skin. This can be a scary situation for any parent, especially when you need to rush to the hospital for care only to find out your child is allergic to eggs or peanuts.

Life certainly just got a lot harder, especially if you live in Asia where some common ingredients like eggs, peanuts, shellfish, and even soy are used in abundance. But, it’s not just food allergies that we have to worry about, in fact, there’s a long list of things that can cause allergies including medication, insects, the environment, and more. According to the World Allergy Organization, “The prevalence of allergic diseases worldwide is rising dramatically in both developed and developing countries.” And, it’s not just kids being affected with different organizations such as the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America noting that 40% of adults suffer from some form of allergy.

While the vast majority of cases will inevitably be mild, leading to a quick doctor visit if a patient is worried enough, there is still a risk of serious allergic reactions that can be life-threatening. In this article, we take a look at what exactly allergic reactions are, the common causes and cures, and how your health insurance can play a key role in ensuring you receive the best care for any allergic reaction.  


What exactly is an allergic reaction?

Chances are high that you have had an allergic reaction before, you likely may not have known it or may have associated it with something else. At a high level, an allergic reaction is when your body reacts to a foreign substance commonly referred to as an “allergen”. When an allergen enters your body, either by being inhaled or ingested, or even comes in contact with your skin, your immune system will react by producing antigens in order to protect you. This reaction to usually harmless items is what doctors refer to as a hypersensitivity reaction, or an allergic reaction.

When we do see an allergic reaction, most of the time it is usually minor with symptoms that can often include one or many of the below symptoms including:

  • Hives on the neck or face
  • Light to moderate itching
  • Runny or congested nose
  • Rash on the skin, especially where something you are allergic to touched you
  • Red eyes
  • Slight discomfort

With some cases, allergic reactions can be more severe and include symptoms such as:

  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Difficulty breathing, or breath coming with a wheezing sound
  • Tight chest
  • Moderate to extreme discomfort
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Swelling of eyes, lips, or tongue
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Heart palpitations
  • Loss of consciousness  

When it comes to the more severe symptoms of an allergic reaction, like trouble breathing and swelling of throat/eyes/mouth, this is commonly referred to as anaphylactic shock and it is essential that you seek medical care at an emergency room ASAP. Many people that have an established allergy will often carry an EpiPen with them. EpiPens are a device that inject epinephrine (pure adrenaline) directly into the body in order to help open airways and keep them open long enough for that person to get to a hospital.


What causes allergic reactions?

The list of things that can cause an allergic reaction is incredibly long, primarily because there are so many different types of allergens out there. In Asia there are a number of common allergens that cause allergic reactions in people including:

  • Insect bites and stings.
  • Foods like milk, nuts, and shellfish.
  • Medication like penicillin, aspirin, or common barbiturates used to dull pain after surgery.
  • Mold like black mold, commonly found in humid climates and buildings that are not well ventilated.  
  • Seasonal allergies to pollen in the air.
  • Animal dander.

In a recent article published by the SCMP, there were 3 potential factors uncovered by recent studies as to not only why the number of people with allergies is increasing, but also the main causes behind these allergies.

  1. Our environments are too clean – A common thought is that one of the reasons kids develop allergies is that they simply aren’t exposed to the microbes and germs in the environment as often. Think about young children these days, many parents keep them from playing in the dirt which scientists believe exposes their immune systems to potential allergens at an earlier age, giving them a chance to build up immunity.
  2. We have less exposure to vitamin D – One study found that the further people live away from the equator, the higher chance they will develop a food allergy, it also found that many children with food allergies also have low levels of vitamin D. This is, of course, a theory, but it could very well be plausible.
  3. Our diet during our early and formative years – Traditionally, some health experts have recommended delaying a child’s exposure to common food allergens at an early age (as in less than one to two years). Now, it would appear that studies have found that actually feeding your child things like milk, nuts, and eggs from an early age can help reduce the chance of developing an allergy later in life.


What cures it?

Unfortunately, for the most part, there is not a whole lot that can be done to “cure” an allergy. Some people will outgrow an allergy, but others are usually recommended to avoid the source of the allergy. This is especially true for allergies to food and environment where a reaction has been severe. Mild reactions will usually be treated with antihistamines or some lower powered corticosteroids

If an allergy is severe enough, many people will be instructed to carry an EpiPen with them in order to help ensure that should you have a reaction you will be able to get to a hospital in time. They may also be prescribed powerful corticosteroids that are meant to be taken over a period of time, or administered via an IV drip to help get the body recover from a reaction.   


How does health insurance factor into allergies?

Health insurance can play an important part in the care for and recovery from allergic reactions, primarily because if you do have a reaction, you are likely going to need to see a doctor. Unlike other health concerns, it can often take time to identify exactly what you are allergic to, which means the need for multiple visits to the doctor along with a likely visit with specialists. In cities like Hong Kong, Singapore, and indeed much of Asia, you are likely going to need to look for care from the private sector, which can be incredibly expensive, especially if you need multiple visits.

Beyond that, you may need to acquire an EpiPen or similar device. In the US it has been reported that the price of these pens has increased by nearly 600% since 2007. Other countries have seen price increases of these devices, which while you hope will never have to be used, do expire and need replacing every year or so. This makes EpiPens a considerable investment regardless of your location.  

It is largely because of these costs that it is important to secure a health insurance plan. Many plans will cover allergic reactions and the resultant care along with medication, which can help ensure that you are not left with a large medical bill should you have an allergic reaction. To learn more about our plans available, visit our website today.

Let’s talk food in Dubai!

Food in Dubai

As we have entered July, many of us have been fasting for the past many weeks. There are numerous potential health benefits of fasting, including weight loss, lowered cholesterol, and lower blood pressure, but let’s face it, people are looking forward to getting back to their normal eating schedules. Are the residents of Dubai choosing healthy options, though? How are the foods that we most commonly enjoy in the Emirates affecting people here? Here, UAE Medical Insurance’s partner Pacific Prime attempts to answer these questions by examining available information about health and food in Dubai.

Dubai’s health situation

As with many other countries in the developed world, the UAE, and thereby Dubai, has been seeing increased incidence of so-called ‘lifestyle diseases’. In fact, some of the statistics related to the health of Dubai are quite striking. For instance, 66% of men and 60% of women in the Emirate are considered to be obese or overweight, and these kinds of figures can be seen across all age groups. This can be seen easily in children in the UAE in general, where a larger portion of children are obese than is seen in the United States, and, furthermore, UAE children have been found to have cholesterol levels consistent with those commonly seen in 60-year-old men. Here are some more points about the current level of health in the UAE:

  • 1 out of every 5 people in the UAE is diabetic.
  • The average age of heart attack patients at Dubai’s Rashid Hospital is 20 years younger than the worldwide average.
  • More than 40 percent of adults in the UAE between 35 and 70 years of age suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure).
  • The most common health complaint in the UAE is cardiovascular disease, both in expats and locals alike.
  • Non-communicable diseases are now responsible for over 60 percent of all mortalities in GCC countries, which includes the UAE.

As you can tell from these facts and figures, diseases of affluence have unsurprisingly become a major issue in Dubai, as well as the rest of the UAE. To counter these trends, it would be prudent to focus on a few main points: weight gain, heart disease and diabetes. Here are some of the popular local dishes you can find around Dubai, and some you might want to avoid over indulging in.

Food in Dubai

What are the dishes that Dubai is known for?

On the relatively healthy side of things, there are many great vegetarian dishes enjoyed widely in Dubai. These include staples like Falafel, Hummus, Kousa Mahshi and Tabbouleh. These foods mostly contain heart-healthy fats, dietary fiber and a smattering of vitamins that will provide good fuel for your body while not causing you to gain weight when eaten in moderation.

One of the main ingredients in the foods we eat leading to weight gain, and, thereby, other health problems, is sugar. If not burned immediately for energy, this sweet substance will be stored as fat in our bodies. This is why some of our favorite delectable Dubai dishes should be eaten very sparingly. These include desserts like Luqaimat, Khanfaroosh, Knafeh, Esh Asarya and Mehalabiya, or breakfast dishes like Khabees. Even something seemingly healthy and natural like Dates can have a serious amount of sugar hidden within.

Moving from simple to complex carbohydrates, the array of delicious bread to be found in Dubai will tantalize even the most veteran of savory food lovers. While often good sources of fiber, the carbs in bread often spike insulin, which promotes converting energy into glucose within your body, which will then be stored as fat. This includes the bread and wheat found in dishes like Shawarma, Al Harees, Manousheh, Fatteh, Kellaj, Lahem Bl Ajin and Tabbon Bread.

Finally, we have meat-focused dishes like Ghuzi, Al Machbous, Mixed Grill, Chelo Kebab, Stuffed Camel and more. While lean protein is generally good for you (and great for those who work out regularly), it’s still important to look at what else is on the plate. Watch out for sugary sauces and starchy side dishes that often go overlooked when placing your order.

Keeping healthy

Clearly, the flavors of Dubai are both rich and varied, and now you hopefully have an idea of which dishes you can enjoy on special occasions, and which you can regularly to maintain a healthy diet. In addition, it’s not always about what you are eating as it is how much of it you eat. Keeping track of your daily calories and managing your portions will go a long way to ensuring that your waistband isn’t expanding in perpetuity.

Coincidentally, the end of Ramadan this year also signals the beginning of the Dubai Health Authorities healthcare reform that now requires every single individual in the Emirate to be covered by a private health insurance plan, and for good reason. While preventive care and healthy living should be the focus for all of us in the UAE, there inevitably comes a time in the life of some when diseases like those mentioned previously in this article will catch up. This is when it will be imperative to have a high-quality healthcare plan that can address the potential costs of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

Those who have yet to purchase private medical insurance for themselves or their families following the June 30th deadline should fear not, there’s still time. The DHA has stated that it will be giving a 6 month grace period during which no fines will be levied against the uninsured. That means people can still use the services of insurance brokers like UAE Medical Insurance to compare health insurance plans from major insurers in Dubai and receive free price quotations.  Whether you will be eating healthy now or not, it’s certainly in your best interest to prepare for any future health problems that could develop.

Insurance tax in the UK increased: Does this affect you?

Graph indicating rise in health insurance tax

On March 16 the British government released their budget for the 2016 financial year, and as with many other years, there were a number of increases announced around the various taxes levied including insurance tax in the UK. While there are a number of important increases all citizens in Britain should be aware of, it is the Insurance Premium Tax (IPT) that has the potential to impact expats as well as those living in the country. 

About the IPT

The Insurance Premium Tax, or IPT, was first introduced in 1994 with the idea of increasing government revenue raised from the insurance sector, which was deemed to be undertaxed. Since it’s conception, the IPT has been split into three different rates with different types of insurance falling into each:

  • Standard rate – Includes most common types of insurance like private health insurance, motor insurance, home insurance, etc.
  • Higher rate – Includes some common and uncommon types of insurance, the most notable being travel insurance.
  • Exempt – Insurance that has legally been exempted by the government. This includes life and long-term insurance, and less-common types of insurance like some types of plane insurance, and reinsurance.

Generally speaking, all insurance sold in the UK, barring that which is exempt, is supposed to have an IPT applied to premiums. Some insurers will include this in the premium automatically, while others will apply it separately, meaning you will see the tax applied separately after your premium is quoted.  

The change in the 2016 budget

Historically the rate changes made to the IPT scheme have been minimal, with a tax of 4% being applied to the standard rate from 1997-1999. This was increased to 5% from 1999 to 2011, and again to 6% from 2011-2015. Last year, the government raised the standard IPT tax rate to 9.5%, a considerable jump from the previous years. This rate was announced with the 2015 budget and came into effect for all policies sold or renewed after November 1, 2015.

Now, with the recent announcement of the 2016 budget, the standard IPT rate will again increase. Luckily, this increase will be a minimal .5%, but it will bring the tax rate on insurance plans sold in the UK to 10%.

According to This Is Money, the .5% increase will be applied to policies sold after October 1, 2016. The article also reported that “The tax applies to most areas of general insurance including; motor, home, pet, car, and health insurance. But travel insurance, which is excluded from the hike because it has its own tax at 20 per cent, will not change.”

Will this impact expats?

For expats, there is a chance that you will be obligated to pay this tax, it really comes down to the wording supporting this tax policy, more importantly, the exclusions. According to the HM Revenue and Customs website, insurance plans with risk deemed to be outside of the UK are exempt from paying the IPT tax.

For example, if you currently live in Hong Kong and are not from the UK, but will be moving to the UK to work for your company for a year and secure a health insurance policy in Hong Kong before you leave for the UK, you will not be required to pay the tax as the “risk” (in this case the health insurance plan) is outside of the UK.

However, as the HM Revenue and Customs website notes this tax can be applied when you are “an individual habitually residing in the UK at the date when the contract is entered into.” In other words, if you are deemed to be a “habitual” resident in the UK when you purchase the insurance, you will be required to pay the tax.

Defining habitual residence can be tough for expats, especially because tax laws in the UK are quite complex. Generally speaking, it is safe to assume that if you are deemed to be a non-resident of the UK, then you will not have to pay the IPT. According to this article on Experts for Expats, you do have to deem yourself a non-resident of the UK, but will also be counted as one if you reside outside of the UK for more than 319 days a year.

That being said, if you are a non-resident UK expat and do purchase health insurance in the UK, you will likely have to prove that you are indeed not a resident. As the HM Revenue and Customs site notes, “If the insured gives an overseas address or otherwise indicates on the proposal form that he is not currently habitually residing in the UK, then the insurer should make the necessary enquiries and obtain and retain supporting information if the premium is considered to be exempt from UK IPT.”

So, in short, plans sold outside of the UK will not be subject to this tax, but plans sold within the UK likely will be unless you can prove you are not a resident. Of course, if you are looking to secure health insurance coverage outside of the UK, it would be a much better idea to do so in the country you currently reside in.  

One more thing British expats should be aware of

The increase of the IPT rate may cause some British expats to wonder whether they actually need to secure private health insurance or not, largely due to the fact that they do still have access to the NHS when they go home for a visit. This is a dangerous assumption to make, as last year it was announced that expats from the UK living outside of the EU will have to pay 150% of the cost at NHS hospitals if they don’t have adequate insurance.

As the Telegraph explained, “The charges only apply to hospitals – appointments with GPs and accident and emergency treatment remain free. Patients should expect to be asked questions about their residence status in the UK. The changes, which came into effect on April 6, 2015, affect British expats differently, depending on where they now live.”

While for now, this only applies to hospitals, you can rest assured that as the NHS struggles to maintain costs, extending this payment scheme to GPs and clinics will likely be one of the first things looked at.

To avoid this, it would be beneficial to secure a robust international health insurance plan. As experts in expat health insurance, we can help British expats determine whether they will be required to pay the insurance premium tax and suggest plans that may be more beneficial, especially if you are not currently residing in the UK. Talk to us today for a free quote.