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The Prime Times

News & Developments in International Health Insurance

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Apr 25, 2013

HTH Launch New Product After Merging with Blue Cross Blue Shield

HTH have recently merged with Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) to launch the GeoBlue product. Set to replace HTH's Global Citizen plan in the near future, HTH believe the new product will allow for better brand recognition, as well as increasing client experience in the USA by having the ability to avail…

HTH have recently merged with Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) to launch the GeoBlue product. Set to replace HTH's Global Citizen plan in the near future, HTH believe the new product will allow for better brand recognition, as well as increasing client experience in the USA by having the ability to avail of the Blue cross Blue shield US hospital network.

With one of the one of the biggest, most trusted and most recognised PPOs (preferred provider organisations) available, BCBS is one of the most prolific brands in health insurance in the USA. Making minimal changes to the actual policies, the change from HTH's Global Citizen to the GeoBlue plan is expected to increase both the international and US based portfolio.


HTH previously used Aetna as their PPO in the USA and despite the fact that Aetna is also a large and recognisable name, the policy did not gain the immediate recognition that their more established competitors enjoyed. This was most likely due to the fact that HTH's international plans were marketed under the HTH label, which was new to both the local and international markets. With the brand name changing from "HTH" to "GeoBlue" in collaboration with Blue Cross Blue Shield, higher levels of brand familiarity is one of the key components of GeoBlue's recently launched strategy to increase their portfolio in the international market.

This new brand name has allowed GeoBlue to enter into competition with two other major US insurance carriers that recently embarked on their own campaigns to increase their international presence, Aetna and Cigna. Aetna were first on the scene with their international insurance products for individuals, after purchasing a UK based insurer previously called "Goodhealth" in 2007, seeing good traction in sales due to the brand name. Though the Cigna International corporate plans have been available since the 70's, they only launched their IPMI (Individual Private Medical Insurance) plan "Global Health Options" internationally in 2011, followed quickly by a more cost effective "Advance" plan in 2012.

Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS), an association of over 38 different companies, enjoyed the same levels of customer recognition as these two competitors in the USA.  BCBS's have a detailed, pioneering history in the insurance world that dates back the late 1920's when a prototype for "prepaid hospitals plans" was launched by Blue Cross's forerunner company "Blue Health" in Texas, USA. After growing to have 3 million clients in just ten years, the Blue cross Logo was born in the late 1930's, with the Blue Shield Label following very closely behind.

After the two labels merging in 1982, the company has now grown to an enormous size, covering 100 Million people in America alone. On their books, BCBS has 76% of fortune 500 companies and 86% of fortune 100 companies, as well as being the provider for several US government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, providing health cover for the elderly and low income individuals and families respectively; as well as servicing the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, the State Children's Health Insurance Program, the Military Health system and the Veterans health Administration among others.

Undergoing a complete re-branding is no easy matter, though when asked if this massive undertaking would be worthwhile, Brendan Sharkey from HTH commented:

 "...the re-branding is a complex process that involves a lot of work to comply on a state-by-state basis. This is the price we pay for marketing superior international health insurance products that meet state mandates and offer consumers and brokers the protection they value."

David Hayes, sales director at Pacific Prime, also commented:

"The HTH plans were great value and were generally received well in the market, though now offering the same policies under the Blue Cross Blue Shield Banner will definitely increase their international sales potential. We have a history of clients from the US requesting cover from Blue Cross Blue Shield anyway, and we are excited to be able to respond positively to this request"

HTH/GeoBlue are quite unique among the expatriate Private medical insurers in that they cater directly for the US Market, covering only US nationals outside the USA, or non US nationals who are legally resident inside the US. This comes as a great relief for HTH's clients as they are one the few insurers with plans that are completely compliant regarding US laws and legislation relating to individual medical insurance. This compares to other US insurers on the international market that choose to base their plans out of other (usually European) countries.

Pacific Prime is very excited with this merger and is glad to be able to offer such assurance to their clients of being covered by one of the world's largest insurers. 
Apr 03, 2013

MSH China Releases Steady Premium Adjustments and Increased Benefits for 2013

With the release of the MSH China's April 1st premium rate adjustments, Pacific Prime is pleased to report a stable increase of 10.5% across the board of all plan options. While this increase is in line with the market average, coverage adjustments have been made to certain benefits. These adjustments should not have a large impact on plan renewability, but Pacific Prime analysts expect that in many…

With the release of the MSH China's April 1st premium rate adjustments, Pacific Prime is pleased to report a stable increase of 10.5% across the board of all plan options. While this increase is in line with the market average, coverage adjustments have been made to certain benefits. These adjustments should not have a large impact on plan renewability, but Pacific Prime analysts expect that in many cases, the renewal rate will increase for affected plans.



MSH China have recently become one of the largest providers of both individual and corporate medical insurance in China, primarily due to the release of their Advance plan that was specifically designed for expatriates and high net worth locals in China. Today, MSH China has continued to improve the plan and is still finding ways in which to make benefits more in line with internationally based plans, as opposed to those based just in China. 

Pacific Prime regularly carries out in depth benefits analysis with all of the insurers it works with so as to ensure all products maintain their value in the current market. MSH China have specifically sought advice regarding ways in which to make their plans more successful internationally and some minor changes were recommended. As a result, many of Pacific Prime clients paired with MSH China policies are enjoying increased coverage levels.

One of the biggest changes that has occurred so far this year involves the overall maximum annual benefit that has now been extended to cover RMB 16M for the higher International Plus and Worldwide plans. Further to this, clients can now enjoy an Outpatient Maximum benefit that has been extended from RMB 60,000 to RMB 80,000 along with an extension of the benefit for maintenance of a chronic condition to RMB 200,000 per year instead of the previous RMB 500,000 lifetime limit. A similar change has also been made to the Inpatient Mental health benefit which now has an annual financial limit of RMB 50,000, though this will only apply on a 180 day maximum basis for treatment.

MSH China have also altered their Traditional Chinese Medicine benefit to vary in coverage and, depending on which hospital is chosen when receiving treatment at local government run facilities, it may be possible to receive full cover. However, coverage for treatment received in private facilities not listed, as well as other more costly facilities, will be limited to RMB 300 per year and a maximum of 20 visits.

For China based policies, such as MSH China's Advance Plan, it is very common to give clients the option to place restrictions on receiving treatment at high cost providers so as to try and bring the premium down for those who do not need to attend expensive foreign facilities. In China, some of the most expensive hospitals in the world operate right alongside those with incredibly low costs, sometimes even within the same building.

Generally speaking, internationally based plans will cover treatment in full at any facility without specific exclusions or limits at the more expensive medical providers. One of the more popular options with the MSH China Advance plan, is the ability to place a 20% co-payment on high cost providers to lower a clients overall premium. However, if MSH China wishes to offer this plan at an international level, they will need to consider inclusion of full cover at all facilities and factor this into their costing matrix.

With MSH China's current Advance plan, in order to include cover for maternity treatment, there must be two adults on the plan both paying maternity rates. This design feature helps to ensure protection in China against exorbitantly high costs for maternity treatment at the popular western facilities. However, despite this, MSH China have still increased rates for the maternity benefit up to RMB 68,000 and have removed any further co-payments to be paid by the client after the routine benefit of RMB 68,000 has been exhausted. Previously, MSH China would cover 50% of the maternity benefit past the routine limit, but this will no longer be the case after April 1st.

Another popular feature of the MSH China Advance plan is the ability to restrict coverage within the Greater China region only, referring to cover in Mainland China, Hong Kong,Taiwan and Macau only. Whilst beneficial to many residing in the area, this option contradicts one of the most important features of internationals private medical insurance: portability. With this feature, a client could move with their plan while in China with restricted area of cover, though if they were to later move to another area of the world, they would need to upgrade their plan to include the wider area of cover. This would also unfortunately result in new medical underwriting, so they would not have continuation of cover for any conditions they may have developed during their previous plan. This will be an issue of key importance to consider should MSH China wish to attract the international market.

Pacific Prime spoke very closely with MSH China regarding these points of consideration and clients should be pleased to know that these issues are of great importance to MSH China who hope to make their plans as sustainable for the future as possible. MSH China have already begun looking for an external partner to process plans for clients not living in China, and with the experience of MSH France (the parent company of the MSH China plans) on their side, access to their international network of hospitals will ensure comfort for MSH China clients going forward, knowing they will receive the level of international cover that has come to be expected from such a prolific insurer. 
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