Silver Tsunami Survival: Aging Populations and Your Business

silver tsunami

Over the past few decades the world has seen a trend that is both good and bad: People are living longer than ever before. This mass aging in many developing and developed countries is often referred to as the ‘silver tsunami’ due to its far-reaching and unavoidable nature. “How could this be a bad thing?” you might ask. Obviously, everybody wants to live as long as possible, however this trend has been having effects on sectors of our everyday lives that can be considered negative. The negative effect of the silver tsunami that this article will focus on is the impact it has on healthcare systems and corporate health insurance around the world, and in Asia in particular.

The silver tsunami and healthcare systems

Healthcare systems are already burdened today, but this is likely to get worse in the not-so-distant future as the silver tsunami puts pressure on the likes of which has never been seen before. Virtually all healthcare markets in Asia will likely require an increase in their number of hospital beds. At least 25% are needed, if not more, and that is just to maintain current levels of occupancy, which are already too high in some areas. However, with the anticipated continuing shift of focus from local to international patients, and the resulting increase in demand from medical tourists, some nations will likely need this increase in available beds to be more like 100-250%.

There are certainly many perils stemming from modern living. As we have seen from the experiences of numerous developing and developed countries, there is a whole array of common societal and physical ills that come along with it. This includes poor diet and nutrition, sedentary living and lack of exercise, associated weight gain, and an increased prevalence of chronic conditions and non-communicable diseases (NCDs). In fact, the rate of increase in the occurrence of NCDs has been rising in developing Asia at over twice the rate see in Europe and America, due to the quick advancement and shifting demographics in the region. Because of this, it is projected that this figure will be 21% in Southeast Asia, while developed Western markets will see instances of NCD-related deaths rise by 2% from 2008 to 2030.

To be sure, this would essentially constitute a serious health crisis in the region. This is relevant for elderly people, as they are the ones most likely to develop many NCDs.

The tsunami lands in Asia

Why the silver tsunami could potentially be especially devastating in Asia is due to the landscape of healthcare systems here.  Many countries in the region have placed an emphasis on hospitals and medicine that treats acute health problems, as opposed to preventive care. This makes these countries less prepared to promote the lifestyle changes among their populations that will need to be instituted in order to reduce the threat posed to healthcare systems by the silver tsunami.

This is because, in many cases, the kinds of non-communicable diseases that older people struggle with are difficult to treat after they have developed, whereas implementing lifestyle changes years prior to diagnosis could have stopped the disease from developing entirely. Therefore, if a person is going to the hospital to have an NCD treated, it may already be too late to achieve the best possible outcome.

This is why Asian governmental health organizations should be shifting their focus to programs that emphasize preventive care. Yet, even the most developed healthcare systems in the region (such as those found in Hong Kong and Singapore) currently see less than 50% of their citizens utilizing a primary care physician for their care, instead opting to rely on whichever doctors happen to be staffing local hospitals and emergency departments, as well as specialists rather than GPs.

A tsunami of costs

Governments seem to continue to focus more on subsidizing care for acute conditions, and less on incentives for using preventive care. For example, it is estimated that, in Hong Kong, almost 40% of total admissions to local hospitals could have been avoided through improved primary care efforts.

So what does this mean with regards to the costs of health care and health insurance as we proceed into the future? Let’s examine medical costs first. If you have been paying attention to medical costs in the same nations where the silver tsunami is becoming a major issue, you will no doubt see that the real costs of medical care are rising steadily. While there are many factors at play when medical costs rise, when it comes to caring for the elderly, simple supply and demand is a huge one.

Basically, the longer people live, the more likely they are to need medical treatment, whether for acute or chronic conditions. Since average ages have been rising steadily in recent years, and the number of elderly people has been consistently growing, there has been more and more demand for medical services. This, in turn, means that care providers raise their prices due to increased demand, making having medical insurance is more important to have than ever before.

While many countries do have publicly subsidized healthcare to take care of their citizenry, it is also true that private hospitals are the place to go for the best quality healthcare. So is it true that the costs of care in private hospitals are across the board higher those found in public medical facilities. Since the care in these costly private hospitals is not usually subsidized, receiving the best care without breaking the bank will require a quality comprehensive medical insurance policy.

The silver tsunami and your company’s health insurance

Fortunately for people that are still employed later on in life, they may have access to a group health insurance plan through their employer that will provide coverage for their medical costs. Unfortunately for the employers, they are the ones that will have to deal with the increased cost of health insurance that results from rising medical costs. However, there are steps that your business can take to address this.

Firstly, unlike the governmental health organizations mentioned previously, your company can take a team-based approach to healthcare in the hopes of managing your employees’ lifestyle, thereby leading to better health outcomes later in life. By implementing a wellness program, organizing healthy living seminars, promoting good nutrition, or a whole host of other programs, your business can not only end up saving money on health insurance policies in the long term, but also become very attractive to top tier applicants when seeking out new talent.

Another way to control your medical costs in the long term despite the silver tsunami effect is to partner with an experienced insurance broker that has an intimate knowledge of your local health insurance landscape. Pacific Prime is just such a partner. In fact, many unique aspects of our service make us a preferred partner for over 3,000 businesses and other organizations all over the world.

These include providing a comprehensive comparison of available insurers so that you can identify your best options, examining your company’s claims data to spot trends, negotiating with insurers at renewal time to help keep costs down, and generally making sure that your employees and your company are getting the most from your group health insurance.

To find out more about your best options for group health insurance, and how best to survive the silver tsunami, contact the professionals at Pacific Prime today for a free quote! We can answer all of your questions, analyze where you current plan may be falling short, and recommend new plans that suit your specific needs.

Are you getting the best from your employee benefits broker?

an employee benefits broker smiles warmly from behind his desk

Did you know that brokers and intermediaries account for a significant majority of the businesses in the insurance sector? This is an important point to know when it comes to ensuring you’re getting the best corporate benefits package in the market. Many are well aware of big-name players like Bupa Global and Cigna Global, as well as the insurance services they provide, but how well do you know the employee benefits broker market? And how can you tell if your intermediary measures up against its competitors?

Here, Pacific Prime discusses what an intermediary does, why they exist, and how you can tell if you’re getting the best from your employee benefits broker.

What is an employee benefits broker?

Instead of going direct to an insurer or benefits provider, a broker acts as your middleman. An intermediary is a person or business that sells insurance products on behalf of an insurer or provider, often falling into two types; insurance agents, and independent brokers.

Agents are usually brokers that have a specific provider they sell for. Independent brokers, however, will sell plans and benefits packages from any insurer they’re authorized to sell for. For insurers, this means extending their consumer reach without the need to invest heavily in their own sales capacity.

Understanding the role of an employee benefits broker

Sales is the main role of an employee benefits broker, however, there’s a lot more to their place in the insurance industry than connecting you with the right plan. In fact, the best brokers in the business offer comprehensive services for both clients and insurers.

an employee benefits broker shows a client what his claims data means

For clients

A good employee benefits intermediary will not just help you find a plan, but ensure that your plan remains efficient and effective throughout its lifetime. Initially, they’ll want to gather information about your business and staff to gain a decent understanding of the types of package your company will need. From there, a good broker can:

  • Assess your historical claims data to more accurately determine the performance of your current plan
  • Compare your current employee benefits package and premium against the market to ensure it’s still competitive
  • Negotiate with providers to ensure any specific conditions or circumstances can be met
  • Provide education and communications assistance to increase engagement with your staff
  • Assist with policy and benefits administration; including handling staff benefit enquiries, and processing claims and new staff applications
  • Perform annual benchmarking, and planning
  • Carry out the renewal processes. This includes re-negotiating for better terms or opening a tender process to guarantee competitiveness

The more established a broker is, the better their position will be when it comes to negotiation on your behalf. Those with a well-regarded reputation in the insurance and employee benefits industry will grant you an advantage over your competitors by virtue of the fact their influence will be stronger than if you negotiated alone.

For insurers

Brokers also offer a range of added services that help insurers. These include:

  • Reduction or intervention of application and claims errors by brokers who offer processing support
  • Minimize dissatisfaction with benefits by increasing staff education and engagement
  • Replace providers in the role of an insurance advisor and claims data analyst
  • Foster client loyalty where insurers and benefits providers have performed or exceeded expectations
  • Ensure a fair loss ratio that doesn’t take advantage of a client, while still keeping the premium attractive to an insurer

Essentially, an employee benefits broker that works well provides value in their role as a middleman; to both clients and the insurer. An intermediary that doesn’t enrich the relationship between an employee benefits provider and the client can quickly find themselves short on either.

“If you’re left with more questions than answers, perhaps this broker isn’t the right one for you.”

What should I expect from a top benefits intermediary?

Regardless of whether you currently have an existing broker or you’re starting to think you need one, there are a number of core services you should expect from an intermediary:

They’re knowledgeable

Any employee benefits broker worth their money will be well prepared to provide you with answers. Ask them about the products and insurers they sell, as well as the ones they don’t. An honest intermediary will be able to give you the good and the bad of the industry, and explain how these products will benefit your company and staff. They’ll even be transparent about their commission; some countries make divulging this mandatory, but there’s never really a need to be secretive about it.

Also find out how a broker handles your claims data, and question them about what your current claims data tells them. If you’re simply getting answers that you could already get from an insurer, then perhaps they’re not as knowledgeable as they appear.

It is also beneficial to ask any prospective broker about their benchmarking process. Most brokers will have a process, but it’s absolutely worth finding out how their system works and how they think it will benefit you.

Finally, question them about your industry and competitors. A well connected and established broker will be able to give you a picture of how your employee benefits package compares to others in your sector, and will explain just how attractive it might be to potential talent. If you’re left with more questions than answers, perhaps this broker isn’t the right one for your company.

They’re accessible

You should be able to contact a broker when you need to, and bigger companies should expect an account manager or someone with which your management can deal with for high-level discussions. Hands-off, lower tier brokers will only ever contact you during renewal time, find out what communications a potential intermediary offers during the year and why it’s valuable to your working relationship.

Some employee benefits brokers will offer online portals and other digital ways to connect with both your management, and your staff. If these are available, be sure to ask more about how they work.

They’re supportive

A big question for many companies is what exactly a broker will do to make your current processes easier. Some may simply sign you up for an employee benefits package and then leave you to deal with the provider for all administrative duties. Others will take some or all of those duties on themselves, and leave your staff with more time to focus on other priorities. See if the intermediary you’re talking to offers support for applications, claims, or other areas.

It’s also worth finding out if your broker will help develop a communication strategy for educating and engaging your staff about their benefits. A high level of communication is vital to ensuring the satisfaction levels of your employee benefits plan, so question whether an intermediary offers educational seminars, orientations, or other related services.

They’re detailed and analytical

Benchmarking and reporting are important in all businesses, and brokering employee benefits is no exception. An experienced broker will demonstrate their knowledge by showing you things about your claims data that no other will have highlighted before. More than just knowing what to look for, a good employee benefits broker will provide you with clear and concise information related to the health and status of your package, empowering you and your management teams to make the right decision when required.

Those brokers with solid analysis experience will also be able to use the data to negotiate better terms or premiums for your business, dependent on what the information shows. Remember to ask what your company can expect in terms of reporting from a broker, and ask for examples of how companies like yours have had better outcomes delivered as a result of that broker’s service.

an employee benefits broker shakes hands with a client

What makes Pacific Prime believe it’s your best employee benefits broker option?

Not all brokers are specialists in employee benefits. Most major intermediaries specialize in other areas, such as Human Resources or financial services, but a specialized employee benefits broker knows corporate health insurance plans better than most. Pacific Prime specializes in providing employee benefits and corporate insurance solutions for professional service firms of any industry. Here’s what you can expect from our unparalleled brokering service:

  • Veteran employee benefits experience and knowledge: We’ve been operating for nearly 20 years in most major expatriate locations, and we work with virtually all of the top benefits providers in the world. We’re one of the biggest distributors of international health insurance plans for a number of global insurers, and we specialize in delivering services for the high-needs staff of professional service firms.
  • Support beyond sales: We’re one of the most involved employee benefits intermediaries in the market, having designed our entire business process around adding value after sales. We become the main point of contact for your company and staff, look after applications, claims, management and maintenance, staff education, communication; and we even have our own in-house developed technology and tools that can offer you a bespoke, tailor solution that fits your business needs.
  • Industry-leading analysis and insights: We offer unparalleled analysis of claims data, sound advice on current and future employee benefits planning, and can make all of this information available to you whenever you need it – not just at the end of the year.
  • A global footprint: Our global family of dedicated offices are located in many major locations, including Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai, China, and more. Wherever in the world you are, you can be sure that Pacific Prime will be nearby to provide all of these outstanding employee benefits broker services.

We know what our strengths are and we’re confident that you won’t find better elsewhere. If you’re in the market for a new broker, or you believe that engaging an intermediary might be a good next step for your business, we’d love the opportunity to talk to you. Our Corporate consultants will happily meet with you to discuss what our services are, and how we can help you control and improve the employee benefits you offer your staff.

To find out more, visit our Corporate website, or contact our team today to arrange a meeting.

 

Health insurance fraud and its impact on the health care system

Close up shot of a doctors hands, clutching a stethoscope, handcuffed, relaying the idea that health care system fraud is a serious challenge

Wherever it’s found, fraud and corruption cost more than just the money some get away with. Like a stone dropped into a pond, the effects of fraud and corruption in a health care system can send ripples outwards, nudging everything in its wake from costs and resources in the sector. As mentioned in our earlier article on insurance fraud, as well as in the trends discussion of our 2017 report on the Cost of International Health Insurance, the issues of corruption and fraudulent claims remains some of the biggest challenges the sector continues to face. This week, Pacific Prime discusses what health system insurance fraud looks like, and what it does to the sector.

Health system fraud

There are a number of different health industry incidents that can be viewed as fraudulent. Some relate to actions taken by a patient, others by doctors, physicians, and other medical specialists. There are also incidents where health providers and related entities commit fraud or partake in corruption in order to draw more profit. In particular, a study by PKF Littlejohn LLP and the University of Portsmouth looked at the following areas as places in the health care system where fraud, corruption, and error can occur:

Patients Medical professionals Contractors
  • Fraudulent provision of sickness certificates
  • Prescription fraud
  • Evasion of medical charges
  • Prescription fraud by pharmacists
  • Fraud and error concerning payments for medical tests, facility services, and consultations
  • Fraud and error related to long term care, home and community-based services, foster and child care
  • Insurance fraud

In their report, the problem of healthcare loss analysis saw a global average loss rate of 6.19% as a proportion of global health care expenditure.  Under these conditions, any health care organization and any area of expenditure could see losses of at least 3%, probably more than 5%, and, in more extreme cases, well over 10%.

Identifying health insurance fraud

Health insurance can often be a factor in any and all of these incidents, simply by virtue of the fact that insurance is where the money is. Insurance fraud is often looked at as the simple act of misrepresenting facts or being deliberately dishonest to receive more from an insurance payout than normal. While the fortunate fact is that only a small percentage of individuals and businesses engage in fraudulent and corrupt behaviour in the health sector, that small number of people still end up costing tens of billions of dollars in the United States alone.

There are a number of common types of fraud in the health insurance sector, which can include:

  • Performing medically unnecessary surgeries or treatments to generate higher insurance payments
  • Accepting kickbacks for patient referrals
  • Falsifying of tests to justify unnecessary medical actions
  • Billing insurers for services that were not rendered, or padding claims with charges for procedures that did not take place
  • Upcoding, which is the act of billing for more expensive services or procedures than were actually performed
  • Unbundling, which is the act of billing each step of a procedure as an individual procedure
  • Misrepresenting non-covered treatments
  • Waiving patient payments (co-pays or deductibles) and charging these costs to the insurer or benefit plan
  • Billing a patient for more than their co-pay or deductible amount

Patients and insured individuals are more simple in their fraudulent actions. Many cases of patient fraud simply involve undisclosed pre-existing conditions, or being dishonest about the nature and extent of an injury in order to receive higher insurance payouts. Indeed, cases of completely fabricated claims, and physician-shopping to obtain multiple prescriptions are also common; all of which simply exacerbates the challenge the sector has in stamping out corrupt practices.

a judges gavel sits over a stethoscope, relaying the idea of health care system fraud being a serious issue

The hidden costs of medical fraud

Globally, health care losses due to fraud and error have risen steadily since 2008, costing the United States as much as USD 487 billion dollars in 2011. There are, however, a number of serious hidden costs that everyone bears as those figures rise.

Overburdening the health care system

One of the main issues with doctors ordering unnecessary treatments, otherwise known as overtreatment, is that it takes valuable health resources away from those who really need it. A survey of 2,106 physicians in the United States found that doctors believed that 20.6% of all medical care was unnecessary; including 22% of prescriptions, 24.9% of tests, and 11.1% of procedures. While fear of malpractice and patient demands was said to drive most of their beliefs about overtreatment, more than 70% of doctors conceded that physicians would perform unnecessary procedures when they profit from them.

This disappointing finding can be considered to contribute, in part, to the overcrowding of health systems, and their hospitals and facilities around the world. The first and most obvious impact is on patient health; those who cannot find the services they need, or those facing long wait times, can lead to cases such as in the UK where 6,000 patients waited more than 12 hours for crucial treatment. However, medical staff suffer too. In Hong Kong, nurses in the overcrowded public health system were found to have the highest suicide rate amongst the country’s professions – even higher than police and teachers.

Receiving timely care from alert and attentive professionals is imperative in health sectors around the world. Yet, patients can also bear some responsibility for hospital overcrowding. In a study of Korean hospital frequent users, 3.1% of all Emergency Department patients accounted for 14% of all visits, and consumed more than 17% of total ED costs. Granted, Koreans are covered by a national health insurance system, but having insurance can make individuals more likely to seek medical treatment from a hospital – even if the issue is something minor. In the insurance industry, this insured-behaviour fact is the reason that deductibles exist.

Identity theft

In addition to the more recent issue of cyber attacks for digital medical data, insurance companies and their consumers have also been targets of traditional identity theft. The ramifications for individuals can range from financial, where sensitive information such as addresses, credit cards, and social identity numbers can be stolen, to medical. Medical issues arising from identity theft can have more serious consequences, from unauthorized use of finite health benefits to having the perpetrator’s medical information mixed with the victim’s. This could lead to dire consequences related to incorrect medication or blood types.

The most recent case of medical identity theft occurred in the United States, where five individuals were accused of using fraudulent prescriptions in order to obtain opioid pills. The accused bought the identities of several individuals and doctors in order to obtain the restricted drugs, and obtained blank prescription forms. All five have been charged with conspiracy to unlawfully acquire and distribute a controlled substance, aggravated identity theft, and conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

Physical or lethal harm to patients

Where physicians are drawn to overtreat patients with unnecessary procedures or services, sometimes those decisions can be fatal. Whether it be the demand of a patient or doctor, ordering too many tests increases the risk of falsely diagnosing, misdiagnosing, or overdiagnosing a disease, which can lead to harmful courses of medication or treatments being prescribed. Overdiagnosis is where an anomaly is identified, such as cancerous cells, however, it is viewed – either mistakenly or deliberately – as being important enough to warrant immediate medical attention. Some cancers can regress themselves, without the need for chemotherapy or radiation.

In more serious cases, health care fraud can lead to deaths. Last year, a health care provider was sentenced to 10 years in prison for cheating Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers out of more than USD 20 million. The worst part of this crime is that the false radiology reports produced by this X-ray company resulted in the death of at least two patients. One nursing home resident had their chest imaging misread, failing to detect a congestive heart failure, while the second patient underwent elective surgery despite her imaging showing a mild congestive heart failure.

Increasing health insurance premiums

According to an article in The Telegraph, overtreatment and fraud have long been a driver of accelerated insurance inflation. Health insurance fraud has cost both governments and private insurers hundreds of millions in recent years, and yet these losses need to come from somewhere. In the case of government-provided social health coverage, fraud and corruption losses generally come out of hospital and health sector budgets. Patients of public services suffer, as under-resourcing and overburdening further reduce the quality and standard of the care they seek.

For private insurers, however, fraud losses are instead levied amongst consumers. Insurance companies are risk managers. If trends indicate that fraudulent activities are becoming more frequent or bolder, you can expect the insurance premiums will be adjusted in order to soften the blow these incidents can inflict on their shareholders. They are, after all, businesses. One of the biggest barriers to maintaining premium stability for many insurers is that methods for measuring, identifying, and understanding just how much fraud is accurately being carried out; for example, PKF and the University of Portsmouth suggest that low-value fraud is common, while large-scale examples are fairly unusual.

What can I do to help combat fraud in the health care system?

If you’re a company, check out our previously written article on the steps you can take to tackle fraud. For individuals, here are a few things to think about to ensure you’re doing your bit to uphold the integrity of the health care system:

  • Keep your health insurance and personal information protected.
  • Be informed about your role as a patient or insurance consumer, and don’t be afraid to question your health care provider about procedures or billing items you don’t understand.
  • Seek out an independent opinion about treatments or care if you need it.
  • Be responsible for your own health care and treatment, and seek services from an appropriate source.
  • Report fraud if you come across it.

Further to ensuring you’re empowered and protected personally, also think about your influence on the health sector from a social standpoint. The three biggest factors related to fraud are:

  • Poverty;
  • Poor health regulation; and
  • A lack of transparency.

If you can, try to influence the policymakers in your country to ensure that the health sector is well supported in their fight to keep health care system and insurance fraud down.

Where can I seek reputable, independent advice?

Using a broker like Pacific Prime, you’ll have access to independent, unbiased advice about both the providers in a health care system, and the insurers that offer cover for it. We’ve been delivering medical coverage solutions and support to both individuals and corporate businesses for almost 20 years; and we’ve built a reputation for simplifying insurance. Partnering with us, you’ll be guaranteed a team that not only cares about your wellbeing, but the wellbeing of the industry we operate in – that’s why we’re so interested in spreading as much information as possible about how we can all combat health insurance fraud and corruption.

If you’re in the market for insurance or employee benefits, and want to deal with a leader with integrity, contact the team at Pacific Prime today.

 

Out of the shadows: Making mental health a priority for Hong Kong employers

mental health article

Mental health issues are pervasive across the world, in virtually every population; affecting all of us either directly or indirectly. Hong Kong, with its frenetic and competitive work culture, is no stranger to this phenomenon. In fact, it has been estimated that about 32 percent of employees in 2016 were classed as having unsatisfactory mental health – up from 29 percent in 2015.

A 2014 survey commissioned by the Mental Health Association (MHA) further found that a whopping 60 percent of Hong Kongers report job-related stress and anxiety. Despite these alarming figures, there still remains widespread social stigma towards those battling with mental illness, leading many in the city to suffer in silence.

To that end, this article by Pacific Prime and healthcare advisory firm Asia Care Group looks at the state of mental health and illness in Hong Kong, its implications for employers, and what companies can do to address the issue of mental wellbeing and health in the workplace.

mental health article image

State of mental health in Hong Kong

Talking about and addressing mental health in Hong Kong is something many don’t do, or refuse to acknowledge. Candace Albert from the Asia Care Group further explained, “Fear drives discrimination and myth, and prevents people from seeking care. Encouraging an open dialogue on these subjects and increasing the level of mental health literacy among the general public are established strategies to drive change. At a societal level, increased openness about mental health will reduce stigma, promote earlier identification of common mental disorders, and enhance the likelihood that individuals explore health resources”.

This stigma has only recently started to be addressed by the government, who conducted their first-ever territory wide survey of mental illness in 2010. The report’s final study findings, which were published in a peer-reviewed journal in 2015, found that the prevalence of common mental disorders among adults aged 16 to 75 was 13.3 percent.

Given these findings, Dr. Chan Chung-mau, Chairman of the Hong Kong Association for the Promotion of Mental Health, wrote in his EJInsight article that it is possible that well over one million people in Hong Kong are in need of some form of mental healthcare. Healthcare, which in many cases, is under-supported.

Mental illness support: How Hong Kong compares with other Asia-Pacific countries

In addition to the above mentioned findings, a 2016 Mental Health and Integration report by The Economist Intelligence Unit gave Hong Kong an overall score of 65.8 out of 100 with regard to  their effort to integrate those suffering with mental health illness into the community.

Hong Kong’s worst performance was in the area of governance – including efforts to reduce stigma and promote human rights of mental healthcare patients, where Hong Kong is said to lack “a formal overarching mental health policy”. While the Hospital Authority’s 2010 Mental Health Service Plan helps fill the void in bringing coherence to the service provision, “coordination remains spotty”.

mental health index

Source: The Economist Intelligence Unit

For example, the Food and Health Bureau handles medical care of mental illness patients, whereas community support is managed by the Labour and Welfare Bureau. This fragmentation has led to a key support structure, trained psychiatrists, being largely understaffed.

Shortage of psychiatrists in Hong Kong

As of the time this article’s writing, the patient-psychiatrist ratio here is about 4.5 per 100,000 people, whereas the UK has 14.63 psychiatrists per 100,000 people, and Australia has 9.16 psychiatrists per 100,000 population.

The low number of psychiatrists in Hong Kong hurts access to mental healthcare services. This is especially true in the public sector, where people wait as long as 166 weeks for an initial visit. This, coupled with short appointment times of around 5 to 10 minutes per patient, and hiking demand for mental healthcare services, all point to the fact that it is getting harder for public sector doctors to invest their time into treating and supporting patients and their families.

In November 2016, this pressing situation led the government to announce their intentions of further extending their public-private partnership model, which has been in place in general outpatient clinics to handle “suitable and stable” follow-up patients in order to relieve the overburdened public system. As the private sector currently handles about 10 percent of psychiatric patients in Hong Kong, many see the potential in private doctors taking up more patients.

The issue of stigma and mental illness in Hong Kong

Another important issue to address here is the pervasive stigma that still surrounds those with mental illness conditions in Hong Kong and much of Asia. As this issue is multi-faceted, it can be very complex.

To reduce this stigma, in 2010 the Hong Kong government invested HKD 135 million into setting up a community network for people suffering from mental illness. A number of public programs were organized to promote mental well being and foster a greater understanding of mental illness.

On the success of these programs, Candace Albert commented, “The investment initiative to expand the Integrated Community Centres for Mental Wellness is a positive first step. The programs can be enhanced over time by clearly defined referral pathways, both with the existing Hospital Authority services for current and ex- mentally ill patients, and with primary care. The value of community-based programs is strengthened when they operate alongside other services, in an integrated health system.”

Why employers should address the mental health of their employees

The issue of mental health can be a touchy subject that many employers might not be willing to address openly. After all, many hold the widespread opinion that an employer has no business getting involved with their employees’ mental state in the first place. That being said, while employees have every right to maintain their privacy about personal / sensitive issues, it doesn’t mean that companies should completely ignore their employees’ psychological wellbeing.

The reason is clear: an employee’s mental state, if poor and left unaddressed, will likely permeate into the workplace. In fact, its impact is wide-reaching and can be detrimental not only to the employee, but also the employer and society at large. A 2017 Deloitte UK report, titled: At a tipping point? Workplace mental health and wellbeing, delved into this point further and discussed the following key findings:

  • Impact on employees: 85 percent of employees reported symptoms of poor mental health attributed to work-related stress. Demanding jobs increase the chances of physician-diagnosed illness by 35 percent, and long work hours increase mortality by nearly 20 percent.
  • Impact on employers: Poor employee mental wellbeing also results in loss of productivity. The report found that job insecurity increases the odds of reporting poor health by about 50 percent. Absence, however, is not the only cost. Other costs to the business include presenteeism (the loss in productivity from working at less than full capacity), and turnover.
  • Impact on society: Poor mental wellbeing is also costly to society. According to the WHO, the global cost of mental disorders is expected to reach USD 6 trillion by 2030. This primarily includes the costs and strains to the public healthcare sector. In Hong Kong, for example, demand for psychiatric care has grown from 39,770 cases in 2009/2010 to 47,958 cases in 2014/2015, thus leading to an increasingly overburdened public system.

In addition to the above, the University of Hong Kong found in their new study of mental health conditions in the workplace that 90 percent of respondents (both employees and managers) said they needed better support at work. What’s more, 60 percent of respondents believe that mental health issues in the workplace play a large role in pushing away talented staff. “With productivity losses in workplace settings being as high as they are, there’s a strong business case for reducing mental health stigma. Forward-thinking employers stand to benefit by investing in employee mental wellness initiatives because these programs result in reduced staff turnover, lower sick leave, and better employee performance.”, said Candace Albert.

What employers can do to address employee mental health

By addressing and opening up discussion about mental wellbeing in the workplace, employers can offer the support and tools employees need without intruding on their privacy; not to mention create a more positive and productive work environment overall. Here, we’ve included several key ways to address employees’ mental wellbeing and health in the workplace:

Educate your staff

Given the prevalence of mental health issues in Hong Kong, chances are a significant proportion of your staff are already struggling with a problem. A general lack of awareness and pervasive stigma at the workplace, however, can mean that many employees are not willing to acknowledge their problem, or are confused about how they want to deal with it.

To add to this confusion, “mental health” is a broad term that not only refers to disorders and illnesses like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, but also a construct similar to physical health. What this means is that, similar to how we take care of our physical wellbeing by eating well and exercising regularly, mental health is not only about treating mental illness, but also about taking care of our bodies, getting enough sleep, stimulating our brain, and managing our emotions.

As part of your employee wellness strategy, one solution is to bring in a qualified mental health professional to educate your employees about the wide range of mental health topics. Topic examples include:

  • Spotting signs and symptoms
  • Supporting colleagues
  • Coping with, reducing, and preventing stress
  • Getting quality sleep
  • Building and enhancing emotional resilience
  • And more

The key is to encourage open discussion that allows employees to feel comfortable and ask questions, so that stigma at your workplace will begin to fade. “It’s not enough just to hang up posters with a helpline or website to encourage people to get help,” Candace Albert commented. “We need to encourage people to think and talk about the issue in a workplace setting, such as through educational sessions and workshops. Many employees are afraid to seek help early on, but the majority of common mental disorders can be treated. With appropriate support, individuals can remain productive and efficient members of the workforce.”

Provide a range of mental health management resources

While putting mental health professionals on site can be very beneficial to your staff, some employees could feel too anxious or embarrassed to talk or open up about their issues. Offering additional resources like telehealth (e.g. online counselling services) can, therefore, be a good way to further support employees. By offering these extra resources, not only are more mental health treatment and/or management options available, but they also enable employees to feel more comfortable in reaching out to get the help they need.

Partner with an employee benefits and wellness specialist

From the above, it is clear that there are many advantages to supporting and addressing mental health in the workplace. With that said, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all mental wellness benefits approach, which is why it can be beneficial to partner with an expert like Pacific Prime, who has the skills and experience to identify, devise, implement, and manage your company’s benefits and mental wellness solutions.

We’re also experts in all things insurance, and are able to deliver employee health insurance solutions that includes considerations for mental health. By offering these extra mental health support benefits, employers can ensure that their valued employees are both physically and mentally healthy, and are never left feeling like they don’t have the support they need.

Do you have any more questions? Contact our team today to get the answers to all your questions, as well as a no-obligation free quote.

About Asia Care Group

Asia Care Group Limited is a boutique healthcare advisory firm that focuses on major strategic change projects in the Asia-Pacific region. ACG works across the industry spectrum, with Governments, Public and Private Providers, Health Insurers and Development Organisations in pursuit of more effective and efficient healthcare systems.

About Candace Albert

Candace Albert is a Managing Consultant with ACG, based in Hong Kong. She holds a BA in Public Health Studies from Johns Hopkins University and a dual MPH and MSc in Sustainable Health Systems. She has spent several years working in the areas of chronic disease, health systems strengthening, and strategic planning at previous posts with the Department of Health (US), OECD (Paris), and the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Employee benefits planning: communicating important changes to your staff

man in a suit addresses his staff with his employee benefits planning changes

For many HR teams, a change in employee benefits can seem like a coming tidal wave looming on the horizon. The top of that wave peaks white with inevitable questions from staff about the new package. Perhaps the rising roar of it warns of the potential discontent of those thinking they’re losing value in their benefits. The coming crash? A potential onslaught of complaints or even threats to leave once the changes have had time to wash over people. When it comes to employee benefits planning, a solid communication strategy can be key for staying above the tide when your company needs to make changes.

At Pacific Prime, we’re specialists in employee benefits solutions for corporates. We excel in professional services environments where your workforce can be more demanding than the average; these people have worked hard to get where they are, with the salaries, perks, and benefits they have. As such, here’s our handy tips for communicating employee benefits changes effectively to ensure a high buy-in from staff, and a smooth transition in employee healthcare benefits.

Talking to your staff: the benefit of a communication strategy

Businesses changing employee benefits are more common than you might think. An interview with Willis Towers Watson regional health and benefit heads found that there is a wide range of drivers impacting the way employers approach compensation packages; from changes in demographics, impacts from government regulations, and reducing company budgets due to economic factors. The result has seen some businesses rethink and rearrange their employee benefits package, while others looked to change and, in some cases, reduce their offerings to staff completely.

In terms of challenges businesses face, Head of Health Benefits in Latin America Maximo Saravi says that educating staff on what a package entails has become a focus for some in his region. Employees often under appreciate the investment employers invest in benefits, something Saravi attributes to poor communication. In a 2007 study of employee benefits by Prudential, as little as 35% of employees believed that their employer’s communication efforts were “highly effective”. Employers themselves rated themselves lower, with only 21% giving their communication plans high marks.

In our experience, communication is key to the success of your employee benefits plan. When your staff are empowered and educated about the benefits of your compensation packages, you’ll find much better engagement with the employee health solutions you have offered. Plan administration also becomes easier, and employee dissatisfaction will be lowered too. A communication strategy will help your employee benefits planning immensely; but how do you do it?

Keys for a successful employee benefits communication plan

Richard Cushing said “Always plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.” If your company is serious about keeping its head above water should the rains come in, early and thoughtful communications planning will be your ark in the flood. Harvard Business Review’s 2013 engagement survey indicated that 70% of people feel most engaged when their senior leaders provide updates and communicates company strategy frequently.

A good communication strategy, we think, means you’ll have thought about the following:

1. Start your plan as soon as you can

As soon as you know that your company might be considering changes to its employee benefits solutions, start thinking about how you might communicate that early. You’ll be more prepared and confident when delivering the news to staff, and it’ll also help head off any rumor mills that might arise. According to Koenig’s Rumor in the marketplace, workplace gossip can chip away at morale and fuel anxiety, conflicts, and misunderstanding. Getting the right information out early will help stem employee dissatisfaction based on the wrong office talk.

2. Think about who’s in your audience

Today’s workplaces can feature three different generations amongst them; Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y or Millennials. You’ll also have a mix of genders, religions, and cultures, especially those with multiple global offices. It’s important to remember that these people have different perspectives, values, and views on what they need. Employee benefits are about meeting their needs, and so you should expect to tailor at least some communications similarly.

Also, don’t forget that employees really do want to understand what’s happening with their benefits, but some may be more interested than others. A Bank of America report on workplace benefits found that men participate in financial education plans more than women, Millennials showed higher interest in engaging with education about their benefits, yet all three generations had different life motivations for wanting to better their understanding of their employee benefits.

3. Plan your education strategy

For some workplaces, one seminar on employee benefits planning changes might suffice. Others might require constant engagement and frequent messages, so those of you who know this is what your business will need should plan accordingly. This can take the form of periodic change updates, featured spotlights on specific benefits, and employee success stories, distributed via emails or through your work intranet page. Plan to take advantage of your existing communication tools for the best education and engagement result.

4. Stocktake your communication tools and how to use them

You know who you’re targeting, and what messages to target them with; but how do you get your communication to them? Take stock of all the channels you have available to you and work them into your communication strategy, such as:

  • HR portal
  • Mobile device applications
  • Email notifications, intranet videos and articles, online satisfaction surveys
  • Social media
  • Print media

Use the tools available to you to better educate staff on the employee benefits changes you’re making, and maintain engagement as the changes are embedded.

5. Be honest and transparent about the changes

According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, only half of workers believe their employer is open and upfront with them. Trust plays an important role in all workplaces and can affect the wellbeing and performance of your employees. Trust comes from employees feeling valued, which leads to higher levels of engagement. When preparing your communication strategy, remember that an honest discussion that clearly outlines the changes and why they’re needed is best. Don’t sugar-coat bad changes. Give employees the facts and explain why your company has made the decision it has.

Trust in your employees to understand your decision and gain their trust in your employee benefit changes.

employees fist bump after a successful employee benefits planning session

Dealing with potential fallout from your employees

Obviously, you can’t please everyone. There’s always going to be someone that’s negatively affected by a change, so how do you minimize the impact of your decision? Here are a few tips that can save you, your senior leaders, and HR teams from unnecessary conflict arising from changes to your company benefits:

  • Understand exactly what your employee benefit changes will do, and how they will affect your staff
  • Prepare your leaders (management, team leaders, HR staff) with the information you suspect that employees will want from them
  • Provide staff with as much fact and information as is appropriate, in as many ways as possible
  • Allow for feedback or input from staff about the changes, and create systems/strategies for addressing these concerns
  • Be prepared to discuss and negotiate important concerns with your employee benefits provider, it’s possible they may have an easy solution

Some businesses will be more flexible with their employee benefits planning than others. Giving information to employees, however, is easy, and empowers them to take a little bit of ownership for not only their own benefits and perks but also in the future of your company. Being open and providing information can also give you and your HR teams a little breathing space to deal with complaints from staff who claim “I didn’t know this would happen!” If staff choose not to engage with your communication strategy, then they only have themselves to blame.

Is there an easier way of planning employee benefits and communicating change?

Of course there is! You could always choose to turn your back on the coming tide and hope you don’t drown should it strike. Or you could reach out to someone well experienced in dealing with a flood of employee health benefit enquiries.

Our Pacific Prime Corporate team see this as an essential part of our brokering service. The many professional service firms we work with are always in different stages of their employee benefits planning; some are happy with their solutions and just need simple administration, others are looking to change their perks and benefits to suit budgetary, talent acquisition, or a number of other business goals. Whatever our client’s needs are, Pacific Prime is there to ensure the whole process runs as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

We offer benefits orientations for new clients or existing partners looking to change employee health solutions, can take over the function of plan administration, analysis and claims processing, and will provide a communication strategy for any employee benefits changes you might decide upon at any time during our relationship. This includes having our advisors present to your staff and answer any questions they might have about how they’re affected, or how to best take advantage of their new benefits plan.

We’re more than just an insurance broker, we’re an employee benefits specialist. Find out more about our whole approach to delivering exceptional corporate solutions, or contact us now to set up a meeting where we can explain why we’re the broker of choice for both businesses and employee benefits providers around the world.

International travel insurance requirements: What employers need to know

international travel insurance article

In an increasingly globalized marketplace, placing employees in assignments across international locations has become an essential part of doing business. Sending staff overseas, however, can be a fairly complex and involved task. Beyond organizing employee accommodation and travel arrangements, it is also imperative to arrange adequate international travel insurance coverage to safeguard the health and safety of your staff, as well as ensure that the trip runs smoothly.

While the importance of meeting insurance obligations is clear, many employers struggle to thoroughly consider the requirements of sending their staff overseas. Should employers have an international travel insurance policy in place? Are there any mandatory insurance requirements employers should be aware of? These are big questions, and if left unaddressed employers could face costly outcomes both legally and to the business.

To help clear up some of the uncertainty around international travel insurance requirements, today’s article looks at the travel insurance requirements in key locations, what employers should be aware of when purchasing travel insurance for employees, and further discusses the differences between travel and international health insurance.

Knowing the international travel insurance requirements of your employee’s destination

Recent news about Thai officials calling for mandatory travel insurance has highlighted the importance of ensuring that employees have adequate international travel insurance coverage when going abroad.

Due to skyrocketing medical costs, uninsured visitors can be a large liability for state healthcare systems, which is why an increasing number of locations have already made or are in the process of making travel insurance compulsory.

Here, we’ve identified some of the countries that have already implemented mandatory international travel insurance regulations:

Schengen countries

The Schengen area covers the majority of European countries except for the UK, as well as a few other countries such as Bulgaria and Croatia. One of the documents required to apply for a Schengen visa is proof of insurance that covers “any medical emergency with hospital care and travel back to one’s native country due to medical motives”. The travel insurance policy must also have a minimum medical coverage limit of EUR 30,000, and should be valid within the whole Schengen region and for the full duration of travel.

schengen italy
The UAE

Travel health insurance is mandatory for anyone applying for a UAE visit or tourist visa. Insurance policies must cover inpatient accident and emergency expenses incurred while the visitor is in the UAE, with a minimum coverage limit of AED 150,000. Repatriation of remains must also be covered.

It must also be noted here that employers are legally required to secure compliant medical insurance coverage for foreign workers in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Employers who fail to adhere to the respective Emirate’s specific minimum coverage requirements will be charged hefty fines, and employees who do not have adequate insurance will not be granted new or renewed visas.

Ecuador

As addressed in our recent article on Ecuador visa requirements, those staying longer than 90 days in Ecuador must secure and show proof of having either international travel insurance or a health insurance policy that will cover the visitor for their entire stay in the country. Foreigners granted a Temporary Residency or Permanent Residency Visa must either show proof of having private health insurance or be affiliated with Ecuador’s social security system.

ecuador

Cuba

Visitors to Cuba must show proof of travel health insurance to immigration before they are granted entry. Policies must at the very least cover medical emergencies, medical evacuation, and repatriation of remains.

cuba

In addition to the above countries, other locations that have recently introduced mandatory travel insurance regulations include Turkey, South Africa, Saudi Arabia and Russia. As mentioned above, Thailand is also deliberating over a proposal requiring all foreign visitors to obtain international travel insurance before entering the country.

Things to be aware of when purchasing travel insurance for employees

One thing to be aware of when purchasing travel insurance is that the cheapest plan is in most cases not the most optimal and best value policy. Some travel insurance companies may issue very basic travel insurance for visa application/ entry purposes, but usually offer only very basic coverage with low limits and an extensive list of exclusions. Therefore, it can pay to search around for a travel insurance plan that offers higher levels of protection for all sorts of health and business travel related contingencies.

Please note here that even if you’re sending staff to a country that does not legally require insurance coverage, it’s still a good idea to consider what type of insurance coverage might be essential, since the employer is ultimately responsible for the health and safety of their employees. An ill or injured employee can be disruptive to your business, but one that can’t pay for care can represent a bigger problem.

Travel or international health insurance?

While travel insurance can be the best option for employees going away on short international assignments or visiting conferences, it’s likely not the best option for employees on mid-to-long term secondments or expatriation. Travel plans are generally of a short term nature intended for stays of between three to six months, and while they offer travel-related benefits such as emergency evacuation, as well as lost baggage and delay coverage, its health benefits are often limited to emergencies only.

International insurance plans, on the other hand, offer far more extensive medical coverage in both the employee’s home country and abroad. They provide coverage benefits in virtually every country and hospital in the world, and are also specifically designed to cater to the healthcare needs of globally mobile expats. They also often feature the option of including added benefits like dental, maternity, vision and other wellness benefits.

Get in touch with Pacific Prime today

Insurance can be a very complex market and trying to work out the travel health insurance requirements for your employees at the same time can be daunting. If you have any more questions or are unsure about your insurance obligations as an employer, the experienced corporate team at Pacific Prime can guide you through your options and specific requirements to ensure that your company and staff are protected at home and abroad.

To discuss your insurance requirements, contact the corporate team at Pacific Prime today!

Valuing employees key to managing staff retention: Using benefits to show you care

Corporate man reads the business pages outside a coffee shop, symbolizing how people are interested in reading about employee benefits and staff retention

Managing for employee retention takes some strategic thinking and sincere actions to ensure that your staff remain committed to championing your company’s cause. In today’s uncertain economic climate, efforts to re-engage and keep your staff motivated are challenged by the fact that you, like many businesses, might be planning to keep budgets for raises relatively flat. You might have room to reward top performers who have augmented your business during the year, but how do you retain those who just need a little extra time and effort? Valuing employees by offering bonuses in the form of employee benefits can be helpful.

Flatter compensation budgets expected

According to Aon Hewitt, employers in the US aren’t projected to spend more on compensation budgets for 2017. The company’s 2016 Salary Increase Survey found that challenging conditions for businesses and international competition were hampering what businesses were forecasting to spend on staff salaries. Base pay was expected to rise 3.0% in 2017, with spending on variable pay projected to make up 12.8% of payroll. This is despite the local job market improving, meaning many companies may now face more competition for the top talent around.

For businesses looking to attract high performers, or those concerned about trying to retain valued employees in this market, the global professional services firm suggests reconsidering your compensation strategy or emphasizing other benefits. That fact is even more important when you consider that a separate Aon Hewitt report found that lackluster compensation is the reason for 52% of US workers being open to a new job opportunity, and 44% saying they were actively looking for a new role. Only 38% of workers felt they were fairly paid, while 62% recognized pay and benefits as a leading factor in where they would choose to work.

staff retention represented by staff working in a modern office utilizing good employee benefits

Staff retention: why do employees stay or leave?

Salary is obviously still a very strong motivator for individuals; a good pay package earned through hard work can keep staff with you, while an attractive offer from a competitor might entice them away. Sometimes the reasons are things you can’t help; your staff member wants to start a family, they want to return to school, or other personal factors causing them to voluntarily leave a solid position. Focusing on employee retention, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), can also deliver quality, productivity, performance, and employee morale benefits to companies found valuing employees.

Why people leave a company

Here are some common reasons why people, in today’s job market, might consider leaving you for greener pastures:

  • Employee dissatisfaction: This can be anything from a general sense of disconnection from the role, the business, or discontent for the work environment or the people they share their daily time and space with. Those with good skills who feel taken advantaged of, those whose abilities are feeling stifled, or those who simply don’t feel valued because their workplace comfort isn’t a concern of the company, may all start looking elsewhere for a better offer; even if the salary doesn’t compare to what you already pay them.
  • Attractive alternatives: Those who are ready to be recognized more for the work they do may consider leaving a good role with a good environment if they feel the alternatives on offer do a better job of seeing their worth. The bump in salary doesn’t even need to be that high. According to a Gallup survey, 44% of employees would consider taking a job with a different company for a raise of 20% of less. Add generational considerations into the mix, and you’ll also find that 93% of Millennials have changed employers for advancement rather than taking a new position with the same company.
  • Planned/unplanned exits: As mentioned, some employees have personal or professional plans they’re following; to either get married and have children, or to gain enough experience and financial security to move abroad. Others will leave without a map for where they’re headed. Impulse resignations can indicate an individual employee may have found they weren’t the right fit for your business, or it can indicate problems in your workplace (such as harassment or bullying). In both cases, lessons can be learned around what you offer in pay and benefits, and what pulled them away.

Why people stay with a company

Beyond the obvious reward and recognition reasons for why employees stay loyal, here are a few things that help staff retention you might not have thought about:

  • Foundations and networks: The SHRM article further highlighted that employees who have become embedded in their jobs and communities find it harder to justify leaving, as they have developed a web of fulfilling and positive networks and relationships. Leaving for a new employer can mean having to reestablish these connections, often setting an individual back months or even years.
  • Company culture: Employee turnover is costly. Not having a clear and defined organizational identity (with values and goals) can be the difference between whether you or your exiting employees control your workplace culture. If you continually hire staff that don’t fit the culture you want, you’ll quickly find those who do will leave for places that better align with their values. Attracting and retaining people who mesh well with your company environment will reinforce to your current workforce your commitment to valuing employees by ensuring they’re surrounded by like-minded individuals.
  • Employee benefits: Perhaps as an effect of decades of constrained wage negotiations, coupled with the changing way employment and careers are being perceived by younger generations, non-salary benefits are growing in importance for job seekers and the currently-employed alike. According to a Towers Watson (now Willis Towers Watson) survey, 46% of respondents said health care benefits were the most important benefit for people considering job offers. For retention, employees highlighted retiree medical benefits and health care benefits as the most important reason they stay with an employer.

Employee recognition transformation tech company, Bonusly, states that more than one-quarter of employees are in a high-risk-retention category, and more than half of all organizations around the world are struggling to retain some of their most marketable employee groups.

employee staring at a project board, symbolizing an individual's search for the right job and how important employee benefits for staff retention is

How can employee benefits help my company with staff retention?

Valuing your employees is more than just monetary. More and more people are viewing benefits as almost a standard part of an employment package, meaning those companies solely offering salaries are doing themselves a disadvantage. According to the Glassdoor 2015 Employment Confidence Survey, 80% of employees said they would prefer new or additional benefits to a salary increase. Women and men were fairly even in their desire for employee benefits, while the number of younger people (18 to 34, 89%) willing to sacrifice money for perks were higher than their older counterparts (55 to 64, 66%)

Online publication, HR in Asia, has reiterated that the advantage in employment negotiations has shifted from the employer to the employee; workers are more fluid and less tied to a single employer for life, and many expect to find employment elsewhere within three years or less. This means taking into account what employees actually want in their employee benefits is even more crucial to ensuring high retention rates and saving yourself the cost of high turnover.

Again, Glassdoor found these employee benefits were valued highly by respondents:

  • Healthcare insurance (e.g. medical, dental) – 40%
  • Extra vacation/paid time off/annual leave – 37%
  • Performance bonuses – 35%
  • Paid sick days – 32%
  • Retirement plans/pension – 31%
  • Flexible work arrangements (working from home, flexitime) – 30%
  • Employee development – 19%
  • Tuition reimbursement – 18%
  • Employee discounts – 17%
  • Gym memberships/wellness programs – 16%

Career mobility confidence has increased for people who are employed, meaning they’re less concerned about having too few options should they decide to leave their current employer. Only half of employees, however, expect a salary increase, putting more emphasis on ensuring that not just having employee benefits, but having the right employee benefits will be key to showing how companies are valuing employees in fiscally-tight conditions.

Pacific Prime: supporting your staff retention with targeted employee benefits

As the Harvard Business Review will tell you, you don’t need a Google-sized budget in order to offer meaningful and attractive benefits to current and prospective staff. After health insurance or group health benefits, employees will place higher value on benefits that are of relatively low-cost to employers: flexible hours, more paid leave, work-from-home options. However, getting the biggest drawcard, medical insurance, right first can be a huge challenge for many companies.

Using a specialized broker like Pacific Prime can put you ahead of the rest by ensuring that you can get the right type of benefits package that fits your company culture, and meets the desires of the staff you value so highly. Our Corporate team has a range of solutions that are utilized by thousands of professional firms and businesses around the world, including:

  • Experienced group health insurance plans for businesses of all sizes
  • Tailored employee wellness programs
  • Business insurance
  • Travel/international health insurance for globally mobile employees
  • Group life insurance
  • Multijurisdictional management for multi-country companies

Our difference is in our service. Most brokers will sell you an employee benefits plan and leave you to do the rest. At Pacific Prime, we provide ongoing administration and staff support for the life of your policy, and will work with you using our unparalleled broker framework and benchmarking process to ensure that your plan still delivers while remaining cost effective and competitive. Use our market advantage and decades of experience to ensure your company remains attractive, not just to new employees, but your trusted and valued staff too.

To discuss more about how Pacific Prime can support how your company is valuing employees, contact the Corporate team today!

 

Employee benefits for Millennials: what’s really going to attract young workers?

Two Gen Y people point out something in the sky, representing the search for employee benefits for Millennials

As more and more Baby Boomers retire, labor markets around the world are looking to the younger generations in order to source their new leaders and talent. While Gen X are the next in line age-wise, Millennial (or Gen Y) numbers already far outweigh the generation before them, and they’re already poised to take the reins. With such a large pool of talent to choose from, many employers have already begun wondering: do I need to tailor employee benefits for Millennials, and what sort of benefits will attract them?

This week, Pacific Prime discusses Millennial insurance matters. We’re looking at what the size of Gen Y workers will be, whether the insurance industry currently appeals to Millennial values, and what your business can do with your employee benefits to ensure that the best of this group see your company as an attractive employer.

Millennial demographics: just how big are they really?

The age definitions for generations can vary depending on who you ask, though generally Millennials are those born between 1981 and 1997 (making the youngest age 20 and the oldest 36 in 2016). Those before them, the Gen Xers, are usually smaller in number owing to their smaller year range of 1965 to 1980, while the largest generation by far has been the Baby Boomers; those born between 1946 to 1964.

According to US census data interpreted by think tank, Pew Research, the population dynamics between the generations are set for a massive shift in the next 30-odd years: 

Chart showing US population figures by generation, with Millennials holding the highest through to 2050

Why should I care about attracting Millennials?

All these figures go to show that if you haven’t already started hiring Millennials, you might want to start soon. The common belief is that Millennials are “job-hoppers”, and lack any sense of commitment and loyalty to an employer. However, businesses should consider the times in which Gen Y have been entering the workforce. According to Morgan McKinley, Millennials have endured a number of recessions in their lifetimes already; 1998, 2001-2002, and the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in 2008-2009, meaning much of their working lives have been marred by uncertainty and downturns.

A PriceWaterhouseCooper (PwC) report indicated that more than half of Millennials chose to make compromises when looking for work in such turbulent times. For many, the GFC in 2008 struck as many were graduating university and entering the labor market. They saw their elders being laid off in redundancies, watched friends and peers being rejected for jobs their education years had promised they would find, and many learned to lower their expectations in terms salary and benefits.

What Morgan McKinley have found, in contrast to common misconceptions, is that Millennials are extremely loyal and committed workers. The flip-side to this is that business owners and employers have to work much harder than any generation before them to earn that loyalty and trust. The past few decades have proven that loyalty and hard work can still result in layoffs, so being agile and resilient in the workplace is key to their survival.

Time, however, is wearing upon Millennials and young workers are beginning to prioritize job security much higher than before. As their wealth and assets accumulate, many are seen to be pessimistic about finding new job opportunities. That said, businesses still have time to secure Gen Y workers who come with the sort of resilience, adaptability, and pragmatic skills that can help your company weather disruptive business and economic environments over the next few decades.

Millennial girl with an iced coffee and her mobile phone, displaying some characteristics of Gen Y

Gen Y characteristics: understanding the Millennial

Attracting Millennials with employee benefits and insurance packages can be a difficult task; young people have been notoriously profiled for having little interest in even working in the industry. In general, marketing of insurance products and benefits to Millennials has been slow to adapt to their potential billion dollar buying power. Finding the best way to pitch employee benefits for Millennials should start with understanding who they are. In short, Millennials are:

  • Tech savvy: Gen Y are full of digital natives who were raised in a digital, media-saturated world, are able to adapt quickly to new technologies, and can be incredibly judgmental of products and services with poor customer and user experiences.
  • Social: Millennials are more likely to contribute thoughts, opinions, and experiences via the internet, engage more with businesses and organizations through social media, and participate in social action and community events.
  • Educated: In 2015, 1-in-4 Millennials held a university degree. This may seem strange to those who think of this generation as coffee technicians at your local fair trade cafe, but there is evidence that show that some Millennials are indeed underemployed; working in unskilled jobs or unpaid internships for employment experience while they search for better opportunities.
  • Debt-laden: Due to the high cost of tertiary education, many Gen Y graduates are saddled with high debt before they even start working. This has led to a trend for younger workers to get married and start families later in life, as well as holding back on deciding to own their own home. According to another PwC report, the median age of first-time US home buyers reached the highest age it has been since measures began in 1970; 35 years old.

Furthermore, you can also expect Millennials to prefer to engage with services and products better if they support a public good, or provide a positive social impact. Like other generations, Gen Y can be mistrustful of the insurance industry for the fact that it’s an area where it can be accepted that both sides game the system. Younger workers are highly aware of their own social responsibilities, so you can expect them to turn off from services or organizations that are perceived to cause others harm.

Male Millennial in a suit searches through a crowded street

Attracting the best young talent with employee benefits for Millennials

Tailoring your employee benefits plan to better align with the nature and goals of Millennials will be key to ensuring your business gets their choice of the generation’s top talent. As benefits plans can be different, here are a number of key considerations to understand when developing your workplace package:

1. Go digital

As digital natives, it’s important that Millennials have access to information and services easily and instantly. This can be as simple as providing documentation in a digital format, to leveraging well-designed online platforms such as HR or integrated insurance portals, mobile device applications, or a service provider with a good online user experience. Employee benefits for Millennials should be as digital as possible; no one likes fluffing around with paperwork these days.

2. Push preventative coverage elements

For all of their concerns, their immediate health is often not something most young workers think to consider yet. However, many Millennials are in the stage of their life where embedding good health habits and taking care of their wellbeing is important. Attracting Millennials with robust preventative elements (such as vaccinations, gym memberships, nutritional advice) and explaining their benefits can go a long way in presenting them with the view that you care about your employees.

3. Keep it simple

The downside to being a generation bombarded with various media and distractions every minute of the day means that anything that takes a long time can be a turn off. When it comes to building your employee benefits for Millennials, ensure the benefits and services are easy to use. This can be as simple as using health providers with wide networks and direct billing, to selecting services that use gamification to engage consumers in otherwise tedious matters.

4. Allow flexibility and customization

If possible, you can hook Millennials in by allowing them to personalize the employee benefits you offer. This doesn’t mean creating a new package for every employee; attracting Millennials can be as easy as providing a package of main benefits (such as health insurance) to all employees, and then giving staff the option to pick additional coverage (such as increased dental, extra days off, or personal development tuition support). Providing employees with new options at certain milestones can also be a good way of securing long-term commitment and loyalty.

Getting help with employee benefits for Millennials

Maybe your business is getting ready for a significant change in the makeup of your employees, or you’re an HR expert looking to get one up on your competitors when searching for new talent. When it comes to attracting Millennials, the best decision you’ll make will be to engage with an experienced employee benefits specialist. Our team are constantly reviewing and redesigning the employment packages of many professional clients, helping them to find the best benefits solutions for their current and future staff.

To learn more about how Pacific Prime can help with your corporate solutions, check out our website here or contact our staff directly today!

Global health insurance provider Aetna buys Bupa Thailand

global health insurance provider Aetna acquires Bupa Thailand

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

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

About Aetna’s acquisition of Bupa Thailand

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

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

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

Thailand: A lucrative market for global health insurance providers

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

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

Aetna’s new service approach for international corporations

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

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

Member support

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

Service delivery

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

Full program transparency

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

Partnership approach

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

Pacific Prime: Your global health insurance specialist

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

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

Expat mental health: Addressing the issue

expat mental health

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

Expat mental health in the news

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

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

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

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

The stigma of mental health

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

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

Other expat mental health solutions

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

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

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

Expats in crisis?

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

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

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

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