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News & Developments in International Health Insurance

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May 29, 2013

Pacific Prime Teams with Allianz Worldwide Care to Offer Unique Straight Through Processing System for Clients

With the impending launch of the Straight Through Processing pilot scheme, Pacific Prime clients paired with Allianz Worldwide Care will now be able to benefit from an instant processing web-portal following a joint initiative between the two companies.

It is hoped that this new service will revolutionize client experience…

With the impending launch of the Straight Through Processing pilot scheme, Pacific Prime clients paired with Allianz Worldwide Care will now be able to benefit from an instant processing web-portal following a joint initiative between the two companies.

It is hoped that this new service will revolutionize client experience by enhancing the application process for fully medically underwritten plans and enabling instant certification and policy confirmation for applications which do not require any additional underwriting analysis.

Allianz Worldwide Care and Pacific Prime have been working closely over the past decade, striving to ensure that clients always receive the highest level of coverage available, and the soon to be launched Straight Through Processing service will undoubtedly strengthen the relationship between the two companies. Pacific Prime clients will be the first brokered clients to avail of the fastest application processing system currently available.

The concept for Straight Through Processing was originally discussed between Maria Loughran, Broker Relationship manager for individual business at Allianz Worldwide Care, and Owen Ryan, CCO at Pacific Prime, mid way through 2012. Despite Allianz Worldwide Care already offering one of the fastest turnaround times for new applications, it was discussed how the two companies could provide an unmatched level of servicing speed for their clients.

With the ever expanding footprint of social media websites being a preferred source for clients to turn to for instant advice and information, the need for all companies in any industry to adjust their methods and adapt to customers need for instant confirmation of online purchasing is becoming more apparent in all commercial sectors, including Medical Insurance.

Some clients may wonder as to what exactly Straight Through Processing is. This online portal will allow the administrative departments of both companies to work closer together and shorten the application process, as well as allowing for instant confirmation of cover for new applicants that do not require any additional underwriting analysis.

Previously, during a new application process, Pacific Prime administration would input details into their own internal system and then forward the application to the Allianz Worldwide Care administration department to do the same at their end. This new system allows Pacific Prime staff to input the policy details directly into Allianz Worldwide Care's system, bypassing the need for the insurer to repeat this particular step. In instances where no further underwriting analysis is required, certification of cover will then be generated instantly.

In other words, the administration process at Allianz Worldwide Care is shortened, meaning that where previously it would have taken possibly up to two or three days for policy certificates to be generated and returned, Pacific Prime can now expect to receive confirmation of policy status within 15 minutes of Allianz Worldwide Care receiving the application. For a product that requires full medical underwriting, this turnaround time in policy status confirmation is unprecedented.

This new process is expected to be received incredibly well by both clients and Pacific Prime staff together.

Marta Olivotti, team leader at Pacific Prime, commented on this new system: "Delivering quality service in the shortest time possible is the mantra of anyone who works in sales/customer service, and this instant policy processing via online web portals is a very important step in this direction and we expect to have very positive responses from all our clients".

Jason Armer, another team leader at Pacific Prime also commented: "Normally, large insurers struggle to process the high volume of applications they receive efficiently but with instant confirmation now available through the new online system, this will reinforce Allianz Worldwide Care's position as a market leader in the international private medical insurance sector".

Allianz Worldwide Care is also very positive of the response this will have in the market. Maria Loughran, Broker Relationship Manager commented: "We want to make it easier for brokers and their clients to do business with Allianz Worldwide Care and are continually looking at ways to enhance our service proposition. The addition of a more streamlined business processing facility for medically underwritten business will no doubt yield benefits for both companies. We are excited about partnering with Pacific Prime on this pilot project and to further strengthening our affiliation".

Pacific Prime hope that this is the beginning of the trend for insurers to realise how essential it is becoming to take all the necessary steps to create the fastest application procedure possible and are glad that Allianz Worldwide Care have already realised this and have been driven by the commitment of their team to create an entirely new system to meet the demands of today's market.

May 21, 2013

Pacific Prime Local National Clients Now Offered Coverage from Now Health

Due to the increasing demand for company insurance plans on an offshore basis that cover both expatriate employees along with local nationals, Now Health have developed a solution through their partners Asia Insurance to offer coverage for mixed groups of local nationals. This news is promising for Pacific Prime clients as typically, many…

Due to the increasing demand for company insurance plans on an offshore basis that cover both expatriate employees along with local nationals, Now Health have developed a solution through their partners Asia Insurance to offer coverage for mixed groups of local nationals. This news is promising for Pacific Prime clients as typically, many insurers are not willing to take the risk of offering such a solution due to various compliance issues.

Compliance is typically the first issue international insurers take into account when considering the coverage of local nationals and refers to the fact that insurers need to ensure that they are legally allowed to cover employees who are resident in their home country. International medical insurance is primarily aimed at the expatriate market, and for this reason the laws regarding coverage can be quite different to those referring to covering local nationals. For local nationals, there are many local requirements and laws for insurance that the international companies may not be adherent to, so many insurers will not want to offer cover in case any legal requirements are not met.

If an insurer wishes to increase their presence in a local market, it will take extra time and legal resources to ensure that their policies are legally appropriate. In the case of Now Health, they have teamed with Asia insurance, underwritten by Swiss Re, to be able to offer their plans to a local market, essentially avoiding their own costs in the manpower needed to ensure compliancy. This is good news for Pacific Prime clients as it means that Now Health can continue focusing their attention on their primary goal; servicing the plans for their members, while allowing a wealth of experience and compliance to be at their disposal through the partnership with Asia insurance. 

Another reason that insurers tend to steer away from the local market is because the typical mentality behind the clientele regarding the actual usage of the policy can be extremely different to the expatriate market, resulting in the need for an entirely different matrix to calculate risks and set appropriate premiums levels. Generally speaking, one of the fundamental differences between insuring local nationals and expatriates stems from the difference in understanding what the insurance is actually for. 

The expatriate market may be more likely to delay receiving any elective, or not immediately necessary, treatment as they may prefer to have the treatment done when they return to their home country. There are, therefore, fewer tendencies for the insured member to receive treatment until they return home. Some of the reasons contributing to this factor are the actual level of treatment received, and the avoidance of lengthy recovery. 

If an insured member is living as an expatriate in a less developed country, such as China or the UAE for example, there will be a lower frequency of high level medical facilities. Because of this, the client may feel that local treatment is not the wisest decision if treatment is not immediately needed, and it would be a wiser choice for them to wait until they are back home in their more developed country with more regularity in the level of medical opinions given, or perhaps even a believed higher level of standards with regards to the ethics involved in treatment, having more trust in their home country's governmental body that regulates what treatment can be given, hence diminishing the chance of receiving inappropriate treatment. 

Pacific Prime looks forward to extending this offer to local nationals and Now Health is equally pleased to be given the opportunity to offer coverage to groups that they previously may not have been able to even consider. As globalisation continues to spread within many companies, inevitably they will need to consider the insurance needs of both local nationals and expatriates together.

May 21, 2013

Survey Provides new Information Regarding Client Expectations

After a recent survey of over 100 clients, some interesting results have shown where the main points of concern lie for patrons of Pacific Prime. This pursuit to identify the main decision forming factors for clients has undoubtedly helped contribute to Pacific Prime International's success. However, will this be sufficient enough to ensure a continued success looking…

After a recent survey of over 100 clients, some interesting results have shown where the main points of concern lie for patrons of Pacific Prime. This pursuit to identify the main decision forming factors for clients has undoubtedly helped contribute to Pacific Prime International's success. However, will this be sufficient enough to ensure a continued success looking ahead to the future, where the importance of social media is playing an increasingly important part in the online retail market?


Pacific Prime conducted the survey using the following questions: 

  1. How clear was the information given by your customer service representative?

  2. How knowledgeable was your representative on health insurance?

  3. What did you like most about the PPI service?

  4. How would you rate the overall service of Pacific Prime?

  5. How likely are you to recommend our company to others? 


In regard to question 1, a substantial 67% of clients stated the information given to them was "Extremely clear", followed by 33% claiming the information was "Very clear". Considering that only clients who have previously purchased policies were included in the survey, these statistics indicate that clients have a need to ensure that they are informed of all aspects of the policy before purchasing; proving that having the option to speak with a specific advisor about a client's specific case encourages trust in the product and the inevitable purchase. Unlike 'click and Buy' methods, where the focus is on the premium alone, Pacific Prime clients obviously prefer to know as much about their plan as possible before making a purchase. 

It is worth mentioning that this trend is common among expatriates living in areas where local government control over products such as insurance may not be in place, making it harder to have basic trust in a product. Today's expatriate is far more likely to make a full investigation into a plan and its relative insurer to assure the right product is chosen, as opposed to just focusing on premiums and expecting the best. 

Answers from the 2nd question asked on the survey indicated that 61% of clients rated their advisor as "extremely knowledgeable" and 39% offered a "very knowledgeable" rating. With no answers on the lower range of the spectrum chosen, this indicates the quality of advice given by advisors is appreciated by clients and again, that clients are focusing on ensuring their decision is an educated one. 

These results seem to defy an increasing trend for consumers in today's online market whereby choice of product appears to be based on what has been posted about it online, whether in product forums or via social media. Consumers only seem to be contacting actual service product providers to find out the cost or to make the purchase, rather than researching further about the product. Pacific Prime clients are proving that they prefer to steer away from this experience and are very pleased to take the time to speak with an industry professional to garner any product information they may need. 

It is undoubtedly the responsibility of the advisor to ensure their product knowledge is conveyed properly to the client and results from question three indicate just that. 46% of clients selected "Knowledge of Staff" as the most liked aspect of PPI's service, in second position was "speed" with 24%, followed by "products available" at 13%. The client's preference for being fully informed about a product over product cost was also reflected in the results as "price" came in last with just 7%. 

Results from questions 5 and 6 continue to prove that the priority of Pacific Prime clients lies in receiving good service and that they value this service. 72% and 56% of clients rated PPI's overall service as "excellent" and "extremely likely to recommend" respectively; with 26% and 35% rating "Very good" and "very likely to recommend" respectively. Finally, 2% selected "good" overall service and 7% chose "moderately likely to recommend". 

This prominence of clients claiming that service and product knowledge is the forefront of their concern shows great promise for Pacific Prime. However, with the relentless rise of social media and online 'click and Buy' websites, Pacific Prime must be cautious and ensure that they are able to meet the demand of a growing market expectation for on the spot procurement and instant purchasing gratification. 

All these results indicate positive responses to Pacific Prime's customer driven servicing standards. As customer expectations evolve with the online market however, Pacific Prime needs to ensure that their methods of comparison and portrayal of product knowledge remain attractive whilst still being able to meet the clients need to make an informed and properly assisted decision. 

Pacific Prime specialists will undoubtedly benefit from these results and will use them to create a stronger online social media presence whilst still maintaining a balance with their customer services so as to ensure long term success.
May 21, 2013

Bupa International Targeting China for Growth.

Bupa International are continuing their expansion into Asia, with a focus on the China market in particular, and several developments have taken place recently. Bupa's first step towards developments within the SME market is to bring their premiums into a more competitive arena for the China market. In order…

Bupa International are continuing their expansion into Asia, with a focus on the China market in particular, and several developments have taken place recently. Bupa's first step towards developments within the SME market is to bring their premiums into a more competitive arena for the China market. In order to do this, the insurer has placed a blanket discount of 30% on all China based premiums to make plans more attractive and build the SME portfolio at a similar pace to that of their individual plans.

To compliment the somewhat costly
individual plans that are selling well, Bupa believe that having a 30% reduction on their SME plans will help them to win more business.  However, due to the unstable nature of such a market, where rapid growth means that plans require flexibility and dexterity to succeed, Bupa may need to provide more than a cost reduction to achieve success with its clients. 

The Lifeline plans from Bupa were first introduced to the market over 20 years ago with three basic plan options; the Essential, Classic and Gold plans. Despite these plans each being comprehensive in their own right, the lack of specific plan options within these has been a major setback for Bupa thus far in China, specifically the lack of any options specifically designed for the region. 

Typically, insurers offering licensed health insurance products in China will have some form of alterations available for SME groups that make the plans specific to the region, such as a geographical restriction or restriction on certain facilities in China. However, Bupa plans do not allow for any form of alteration until there are at least 100 employees on the plan.  In a market where personalisation on plans and premiums seems to prove successful, Bupa will need to explore more ways to provide tailoring options so clients can feel they are purchasing a plan that matches their exact requirements.

In the China market, there have been many ideas about how to make the plans more attractive and suitable to Chinese businesses, each having their own advantages and disadvantages. 

One of the first changes requested by several companies is that the geographical area of coverage should be reduced as they believe that their employees only require coverage in China. This initially seems like a positive suggestion, however there are many reasons why this is not the most effective way to tailor a plan. 

Therefore, by limiting the cover to China only, rather than worldwide, there would not necessarily be a significant difference in cost as the cost for full cover within China is one of the highest areas for premium anyway. 

Firstly, China now plays host to some of the most expensive hospitals in the world, so to price a plan that includes coverage for all hospitals in China will actually require a substantial premium. Therefore, by limiting the cover to China only, rather than worldwide, there would not necessarily be a significant difference in cost as coverage within China is still one of the most costly areas for insurance premiums. Secondly, if a company has a large expatriate workforce, they will generally expect to have the option to receive treatment in their home country if needed. Language barriers and cultural treatment expectations can make receiving treatment in China somewhat challenging, so to maintain employee satisfaction it is often best for companies to ensure that employees have the option to return to their home country for treatment if they desire. 

One of the more successful ways to tailor plans in China is to include the option to restrict the amount of cover at facilities where costs for treatment are higher than average, otherwise known as a High Cost Provider (HCP). It has proved very popular for insurers to allow clients to receive treatment at specific HCP's, though with a further co-payment required from the policyholder. For example, the insurer may introduce a 20% HCP co-payment, so a client would need to pay 20% of the actual cost out of pocket. 

Further to this, a blanket exclusion for treatment at the high cost facilities could be another option, disallowing any treatment coverage at all at HCP's. This type of restriction has also proved popular as it recognises the fact the many of the facilities range in cost in China and therefore it allows a company to choose the coverage that is the most suitable for their specific situation. 

Bupa will need to consider offering these types of options to maximise their success within the China market. Furthermore, they will also require more flexibility within their choice of plan options. At the moment, they do not allow for any tailoring of the plan for any of their three options; Essential, Classic and Gold. However, their competitors allow for plans to be tailored to meet quite specific needs for even the smallest of group plans and allow for the removal or inclusion of benefits such as Dental, maternity, wellness, hospital cash and home nursing. With Bupa's plans being so rigid, they will need to look improving their flexibility to match their competitors and grow their China business. 

With the Chinese market developing at such speeds, Bupa need to consider making the necessary alterations to their plans to achieve success, rather than relying on their name alone as they have been able to do in many other markets, such as the Middle East, where their reputation has allowed them to develop their profile in the region significantly.

May 06, 2013

Nordic withdraw from the International Health Insurance Market

With Effect from the 1st of August 2013, Nordic Health Care will no longer be accepting plans for new business worldwide. The international health insurance wing of Europæiske Rejseforsikring travel insurance will attempt to cancel any renewals where possible, apart from those plans where renewals are contracted in which case, a significant…

With Effect from the 1st of August 2013, Nordic Health Care will no longer be accepting plans for new business worldwide. The international health insurance wing of Europæiske Rejseforsikring travel insurance will attempt to cancel any renewals where possible, apart from those plans where renewals are contracted in which case, a significant 60% premium increase is expected upon renewal. Clients will not be left in the dark however, and Bupa/IHI will offer special continuation terms for all Nordic clients looking to change providers.

The low profitability of Nordic's international health plans played an important role behind the insurers decision to withdraw from the market, and as a result, all health care plans will be cancelled as well as all extra supplemental coverage such as additional travel, medical escort and summoning, dental cover and personal accident coverage. Nordic plans to cancel all existing policies; however, where contractually bound to offer continuation to clients, premiums will increase by approximately 60% so as to manage the large number of claims and still be able to meet clients' expectations of service. 

Nordic have stated that this will not cause any immediate loss of staff as the running of Europæiske Rejseforsikring's main travel insurance services will not be affected.  The insurer will now focus their resources towards their primary market, international travel, and are looking at this as a positive step in directing growth in this important market sector.

Nordic decided against selling their portfolio to another insurer, choosing instead to keep a dedicated team of staff to handle the maintenance of the plans until all clients' policies have been cancelled or passed on to another insurer. An agreement was made with Bupa/IHI that will allow for specific options and coverage benefits to be obtained by Nordic clients living in areas where Bupa/IHI offers cover. While this news will undoubtedly bring relief to some clients, Nordic plans were popular inSouth Americaand at present, Bupa/IHI does not extend a number of their services to the region.

Despite this, Nordic had their reasons for selecting Bupa/IHI for their clients, stating that: "We wanted a partner that, through its experience and knowledge of the international private medical insurance market, can offer our customers continued high quality services".

This service from Bupa/IHI will only be available for one year from Nordic's date of withdrawal. So clients who do choose to remain on their NHC policy at the first renewal after withdrawal will not have the ability to continue over to a Bupa/IHI policy in the future.

Beginning from the 6th of May, Nordic Health Care will begin to distribute general information to their clients about the cancellation of the policies, and 4 to 8 weeks prior to the renewal date, all renewal clients will be provided with what options they have.

Pacific Prime analysts have attempted to deconstruct the Nordic policies to theorise why the plans were not profitable and have highlighted what they believe are the main reasons behind the removal of the plans from the international market.

One possibility behind this could be that the medical underwriting offered for Nordic's plans was too lenient and that their policies towards premium increases were not quite in line with the market practises for international medical insurance.

When Pacific Prime and Nordic Health Care first began working together in 2009, Nordic's underwriters were offering cover for pre-existing conditions that no other insurer was able to offer cover for. Furthermore, they did this without applying the sufficient premium loading needed to meet costs that accompany the increased risks of covering pre-existing conditions. For example, there were cases where Nordic were offering coverage for certain chronic conditions in a high risk category with a premium loading of just 50%.

Of course, Pacific Prime were extremely happy to be to be able to offer such remarkable rates for cover that was unmatched by any other company, but the sustainability of premiums in the future was a cause for concern. Normally, when considering high risk chronic conditions, such as Diabetes type one, most insurers would decline cover. However, in the rare case that cover might be offered, the loading would need to stand around at least 100 - 150%. Today, many other insurers such as Bupa/IHI and Allianz also cover pre-existing conditions but coverage is matched with appropriate and sustainable premium loading.

Another offering unique to the Nordic plans was that initially, they guaranteed that the premium increase every year would be only 5%, about half the annual average annual adjustment for all other insurers. Furthermore, they also ensured clients that they would be able to stay in the same age bracket that they initially joined the plan on. So if a client joined at age 35, they would continue to pay a 35 year olds premium for as long as they remained on the Nordic plans. Again, this was a great selling tool for the Nordic plan, despite the risks for longevity.

Sadly, these reasons, along with the excellent levels of service and high claims payment ratio, accumulated to the plans no longer being able to offer sustainable coverage for their clients, proving how different the international insurance market is from local markets that are government backed and can guarantee yearly increases and frozen age brackets alongside plan sustainability.

Pacific Prime CEO, Neil Raymond, will soon be meeting with Nordic and Bupa/IHI to discuss exactly how the changeover will take effect, ensuring the best possible experience for all Nordic clients during this time, especially for clients in non eligible areas of coverage for Bupa/IHI, such as South America.

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