Health insurance coverage and employee health outcomes

Health insurance coverage and health outcomes article

We often hear people in the healthcare sector talk about ‘health outcomes’, but what does it really mean? According to World Health Organization, an outcome is “a change in the health status of an individual, group or population which is attributable to a planned intervention or series of interventions, regardless of whether such an intervention was intended to change health status.” In other words, a health outcome can be described as the efficacy of interventions (healthcare or health insurance coverage, for example) in improving the health status of patients, employees, or the society at large.

As populations continue to age, and Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) continue to rise at alarming rates, a growing proportion of the world’s population are experiencing a decline in their health status. As such, it’s become more important than ever for governments, key decision makers, health care providers, insurers, and employers to focus on improving the health status of patients, employees, and populations. To shed some light on the issue, today’s article looks at the relationship between health insurance coverage and employee health outcomes.

health outcomes and health insurance coverage article

Health-related quality of life

Before we look at the relationship between health insurance coverage and health outcomes, we’d first like to address how outcomes are usually measured. While there exists many variations of definitions for the term health outcomes, one primary aspect that almost all concepts focus on are the central measures or indicators used to measure the health status of patients.

One such indicator is health-related quality of life, which is a multidimensional concept that encompasses domains related to physical, mental, emotional, and social functioning. Put differently, it refers to how physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially healthy people feel when they are alive. An oft-used measurement of health-related quality of life is “healthy days”, which is generated by asking people about the number of physically or mentally unhealthy days they experience per month.

Healthcare costs and health outcomes

In the past 20 years, consumer price inflation (CPI) has grown at an average rate of about 2.2 percent, whereas the price level of medical care has grown at an average rate of 3.6 percent – that’s about 70 percent faster. Explanations are not hard to find. In our International Private Medical Insurance Inflation – 2017 report, we looked at the main forces behind hiking healthcare costs and, subsequently, health insurance costs: new medical technology, an imbalance of health resources, increased compensation for medical professionals, and healthcare overutilization.

As healthcare spending continues to exceed economic growth at an unsustainable level, more and more people are finding it increasingly hard to afford and access quality care. Demographic changes such as ageing populations, and the growing incidence of NCDs, are further exacerbating the healthcare ‘cost crisis’. Some commentators believe the challenge of delivering better health outcomes with lower overall costs can be attributed to ineffective cost measurement processes, leaving better value care out of reach for both providers and patients.

If healthcare costs are better controlled, people (in theory) have a greater ability to access the care they need to live healthier lives. For instance, patients can undergo more frequent screenings and health check-ups to ensure early detection of cancer, diabetes, and other serious conditions. This can help ensure that less costly and complex care is needed in the long run, and can also limit health deterioration.

The role of health insurance coverage

Health insurance is a key tool for managing financial risk and offsetting the cost of care. According to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, there is abundant evidence that suggests having health insurance improves financial security. For example, the article cited a US-based study on the ACA’s 2014 Medicaid expansion’s links to reduced bill collection and bankruptcies, thus confirming that health insurance reduces the risk of unforeseen medical costs.

From an employee benefits perspective, the annual Employee Benefit Trends Study has long reported the importance employees place on financial security. One of the key ways businesses address this need is by offering employer-provided health insurance as part of their employee benefits package. In addition to bolstering employee financial security, there’s also a good chance that implementing the right employee health benefits leads to better workforce health outcomes, which translates to lower healthcare costs for employers in the long run.

Health insurance and access to care

According to the aforementioned New England Journal of Medicine article, several studies have shown that health insurance coverage has been linked to higher rates of patients being able to afford care, a factor which is oft-associated with better health outcomes. In fact, the CDC states that health insurance coverage provides a strong indication of a population’s access to care.

In recognizing the importance of ensuring universal access to quality care, a growing number of locations have made or are in the process of making health insurance mandatory. For example, Abu Dhabi introduced universal health insurance coverage in 2006, which led to an immediate 40 percent increase in hospital and clinic visits by people able to afford care for the very first time. A rise in the utilization of care has also been witnessed in Dubai, where employers of all sizes are now required to provide compliant health insurance coverage to employees.

Access to preventative services

The New England Journal of Medicine study further revealed that the expansion of coverage benefits increases access to preventative services, which can help patients detect health issues early on so they can better manage their health.

To mitigate rising healthcare costs, a growing number of employers are also seeing the importance of offering preventative care cover in employee benefit plans. In fact, a Willis Towers Watson study found that 39 percent of employers throughout the world now offer some form of preventative care and wellness program, and this percentage is projected to grow significantly in 2018.

Self-reported health and wellbeing

There’s also evidence to suggest that health insurance coverage improves patients’ perceptions of their health. Why is this important? According to World Health Organization, subjective physical and mental wellbeing (i.e. the notion of feeling better or feeling healthy) is one of the key goals that medical care should aim to achieve. Additionally, people who report that their health is poor have been found to have mortality rates 2 to 10 times higher than those who report being in the healthiest category.

What about mental health?

In addition to addressing physical health, the issue of mental health has also been brought into the spotlight as a key factor that is closely linked to health outcomes. In fact, as employee stress continues to rise, 61 percent of global insurers now offer coverage for mental health treatment and stress in their standard health insurance plans.

Our recent article, written in partnership with Asia Care Group, further revealed a number of key findings which show the importance of addressing employee mental health. These include:

  • Demanding jobs increase the chances of physician-diagnosed illness by 35 percent, and long working hours increase mortality by almost 20 percent.
  • Job insecurity increases the likelihood of reporting poor health by 50 percent.
  • The global cost of mental disorders is expected to reach USD 6 trillion by 2030, which primarily includes the costs and strains to the healthcare sector.

While health insurance plays a significant role in enabling access to better mental health care, employers are advised to look beyond health insurance in order to employ a more holistic approach to employee benefits which includes considerations for wellness benefits that target mental health. Examples of what employers can do to address mental health include:

  • Inviting a mental health professional to talk to employees about various mental health topics
  • Providing mental health management resources, such as online counselling services.
  • Partnering with an employee benefits specialist like Pacific Prime, who can help devise, implement, and manage your company’s benefits and mental wellness solutions.

Looking to learn more about improving your employees’ health outcomes?

As employee benefits specialists, we’ve had almost 20 years of experience delivering employee benefits solutions to companies of all sizes and industries. Holding the unique ability to devise, implement, and manage the most optimal plans that improve employee health outcomes, while also ensuring that they remain sustainable and cost-effective year-on-year, it’s no wonder why we are the broker of choice for over 3,000 corporate clients.

What’s more, we’re an insurance intermediary, which means we are not beholden to any one insurance provider. As such, we work for you, and not the insurer, so you can rest assured that we’ll find you the best plan for your employee’s needs. To learn more about how Pacific Prime can help your company, contact us today! Our corporate team are standing by to offer their impartial advice, as well as give you a no-obligation, free quote.

Primary care delivery: What it is and why it’s important

Primary Care Delivery

Primary care delivery is a topic that really should be a more common feature of discussions about global healthcare. This is because utilizing primary care services can make such a difference in a given person’s day to day life. Still there are many parts of the world where primary care delivery is largely absent from local healthcare systems. What is primary care, and how can it help to greatly increase health outcomes? Here, Pacific Prime discusses the topic and provides examples from the location of our worldwide headquarters.

What is primary care?

While the dictionary definition of primary care is, “health care provided by a medical professional with whom a patient has initial contact and by whom the patient may be referred to a specialist…” this simple sentence doesn’t really encase the full meaning of what primary care is for the patients that receive it.  With primary care delivery, you truly develop a closer relationship with your primary care provider who, in most cases, will be a general practitioner, family physician, nurse practitioner, or pediatric doctor or nurse practitioner. Usually, a primary care provider can even be a registered nurse, clinical officer or pharmacist, though these will likely be found in countries where GPs are in short supply.

Primary care vs acute care

Perhaps a better way to explain what primary care services are would be to compare to the type of care that is essentially its antithesis: acute care. Acute care is simply healthcare that addresses an existing ailment or condition. This means that you already have a pressing injury or illness that needs to be addressed quickly, and require a purely reactive method of dispensing healthcare. Healthcare systems focusing on acute care means that medical staff will likely only interact with patients only after something is already wrong.

On the other hand, primary care delivery seeks to address a patient’s health even when they do not have any immediate treatment needs. By repeatedly seeing the same doctor over a long period of time, a primary care provider can better chart a patient’s health history and provide lifestyle, nutrition, and chronic disease management strategies designed to optimize health outcomes in the long term. Furthermore, all medical records can be shared with the primary care provider so that they are fully versed in a patient’s current medical standing at any given point in time.

Another benefit of primary care delivery is that the patient gets to become more comfortable with their primary care provider over time. Rather than utilizing a different medical professional each time they seek treatment, those that have primary care providers get to build trust over time with their doctor, and thus are more comfortable to share the kinds of intimate details that can be awkward to discuss with a total stranger, even if they are a doctor.

What does a system without primary care services look like?

Pacific Prime’s head office is located in Hong Kong. Anyone who has used the healthcare system here to some extent is familiar with the lack of primary care services in the city. So what does a healthcare system without primary care delivery look like? Here are some of the most common ways people in Hong Kong receive healthcare:

The doctor of choice is the most convenient doctor: Sometimes, people in Hong Kong will avail themselves of doctor’s office or small clinic when they feel under the weather. The thing is, there may not be any consistency in which office they choose. In many cases, patients simply use a doctor’s office near wherever they happen to be. While this may be effective for obtaining a doctor’s note and a prescription, it certainly will not foster an ongoing preventive care strategy.

Reliance on the emergency department and public hospitals: For many people in Hong Kong, going straight to the hospital may be the first option when it comes to seeking medical treatment, if for no other reason than it’s the cheapest option. This is because public hospitals are highly subsidized, so, despite the long wait times. The problem here is that there is no guarantee which doctor you will see when you go to seek treatment. Once you do see the doctor, they will not only be unfamiliar with your case, but they will also be hurried in their actions, as there will be a steady stream of patients behind you waiting to be seen.

Hopefully, the above clearly exemplifies what a healthcare system not focused on primary care delivery looks like, as well as where such a system can fall short. Now, let’s dig into the specific benefits afforded by primary care services.

Benefits of primary care delivery

It has been proven that health systems that focus on primary care delivery, as opposed to specialist care, produce better health outcomes for patients by improving access to care, upgrading continuity between patients and doctors, and reducing preventable mortality. Additionally, for healthcare systems, a primary care approach can mean big cost reductions in the long run, as preventive care ends up reducing the workload that hospitals take on over the long term thanks to people’s improved health.

Preventive care is a big part of primary care services. Preventive care is exactly what it sounds like. By taking a holistic approach to health and managing lifestyle, emotional and psychological health, nutrition, environmental factors, and hereditary risk factors all at once, doctors and patients can prevent serious illnesses before they even start. Millions of people around the world die of preventable causes every year. The proliferation of preventive care that primary care physicians provide could theoretically help avoid these deaths.

Speaking of heredity risk factors, sometimes a disease is going to develop in a patient no matter what they do to try to prevent it. In these cases, primary care delivery can help patients focus on chronic disease management, as opposed to crisis management, which is what occurs when a chronic disease becomes a (possibly life threatening) emergency.

Covering primary care delivery costs

Primary care services have been shown to improve health outcomes, but not everyone utilizes it, and there’s a reason for that. In many cases, primary care is simply a more expensive option; at least on the surface. While long term costs can certainly be decreased, many patients, doctors and governments are simply focused on immediate medical needs. If saving money is a concern, it can be easier on your wallet to simply to go to the hospital or see a doctor only for acute treatment. This will cut out the ‘middle man’ that is a primary care physician, and get a patient to a specialist as quickly as possible. Of course, the more that a person is willing to spend on their healthcare, the better treatment they are likely to receive.

With this in mind Pacific Prime advises that all those who would like to seek primary care services obtain a comprehensive private health insurance plan with benefits for outpatient coverage. With this type of coverage, you will be able to see your primary care doctor on a somewhat regular basis and receive all the necessary screenings that may be required to properly identify potential health problems.

The thing is, many people only possess Individual health insurance with inpatient coverage that will only address the most serious of acute ailments. If this sounds like your plan, it may be time to shop around and upgrade your coverage. That’s where the helpful private health insurance experts at Pacific Prime come in! Not only can we identify any shortcomings within your existing policy, we can give you a free quote and plan comparison for the individual health insurance plans on the market that best fit your needs. That way, you can easily access a primary care provider and get started on the path to better health. Contact us 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.

Australian households find private health insurance too complex

Private health insurance complex article

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

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

Why people find comparing private health insurance challenging

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

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

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

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

How to educate yourself on health insurance

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lifesavers: Acknowledging women throughout history that have had major impacts on health and medicine

International Women's Day

It’s International Women’s Day! A day where we not only show appreciation for the women we know that make our lives better each day, but also a moment to educate ourselves on the important contributions made to the world. And there are perhaps no areas that have a broader effect on the lives of people worldwide than those of healthcare and medical science. With this in mind, Pacific Prime would like to take this opportunity to highlight some of the most profound contributions to health and wellbeing worldwide that we have only seen due to the direct contribution of some of the most dedicated and thoughtful women ever to have lived. This list is by no means exhaustive, and great work is being done by women in health and medical science still, but most will agree that the following women deserve to be recognized and remembered for their tireless work.

Mary Ellen Avery

A pioneer in pediatrics, despite contracting Tuberculosis shortly after graduating from medical school, Dr. Avery persevered through the illness and learned more about lung function. This turned into a passion for respiration that she applied to her work with prematurely born infants.  Having single handedly discover the cause behind respiratory distress syndrome in these children, a treatment was devised for the ailment that is estimated to have saved the lives of over 840,000 people thus far.

Francoise Barre-Sinoussi

At the pinnacle of the AIDS epidemic in America during the 1980s, the medical community was still at a loss for what exactly was causing the disease. Dr. Francoise Barre-Sinoussi was the first of many scientists researching the disease to identify the elusive HIV retrovirus. This excellent work has lead to Barre-Sinoussi being credited with saving over 2 million lives. She was awarded with the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2008.

Clara Barton

Forced into service by the Civil War, Clara Barton was a patent clerk-turned-nurse that was known as America’s “angel of the battlefield” by the time all was said and done. This is because, after recognizing shortages of medical supplies on the battlefield and organizing to have this remedied, she also led the initiative to treat the sick and wounded soldiers there. To put a fine point on how prolific her work was, Clara Barton was also the founder of the American Red Cross in 1881, and the group’s leader until 1904.

Elizabeth Blackwell

Elizabeth Blackwell is known as a trailblazer simply by virtue of being the first ever female medical doctor in the United States in 1849 (which, assuredly, was actually not a simple thing to achieve). Today in the United States, half of medical school grads are women; A figure that can be appreciated thanks in part to the work of Dr. Blackwell. The funny thing is, Blackwell did not even want to be a doctor for most of her life. Working as a teacher, she turned to medicine only after a dying friend confided in Elizabeth that her suffering would have been greatly diminished if only her doctor was a woman.

Marie Curie

A Polish chemist, Marie Curie, along with her husband, invented a way to harness the power of X-rays, and apply them to healthcare. She was the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize, and remains the only woman to have won two Nobel prizes. She is also one of only 4 people to win the Nobel Prize in two separate categories (chemistry and physics). The awards are well deserved seeing as countless lives have been improved thanks to the medical technology the Curies developed together.

Dorothea Dix

As much as we feel that mentally ill patients slip through the cracks today, in Dorothea Dix’s day there was absolutely no help for them in the US. However, thanks to her work, the first wave of American mental health facilities was established. In addition to the mentally ill, her career also focused on helping and promoting the rights of others who were often forgotten by society, namely prisoners and the disabled.

Grace Eldering  and Pearl Kendrick

Both of these ladies were stricken with whooping cough by the age of five. Due to this fact, you could perhaps say that it was revenge that allowed the pair to change the world. At the height of the disease, it was responsible for over 6,000 mortalities a year inside of Eldering and Kendrick’s home country of the United States. However, using their backgrounds in science and medicine, the pair were able to develop a vaccine that sent incidences of whooping cough tumbling rapidly by the 1960s. As a result, these women have been credited with saving over 13 million lives today.

Gertrude Belle Elion

Even though she never earned a PhD thanks to attitudes about women in academia around the time of the Great Depression, Gertrude Belle Elion did not let that stop her from learning all she could about cancer after seeing her grandfather pass away as a result of the disease. Undaunted by society’s unspoken rules, Elion went on to create the first major drug used to fight leukemia, and developed 45 treatments to aid in battling cancer. Also, she, along with Dr. George Hitchings, developed Rational Drug Design, which was a process for researching and inventing new pharmaceuticals. This methodology was later used to develop drugs such as the popular AIDS medicine AZT. Elion capped her career by winning a Nobel Prize in 1988.

Alice Catherine Evans

Thanks to her hard work as the first permanent female scientist to be hired by the US Department of Agriculture, Evans found that infections carried by cows could cause illness in humans. This research lead to milk pasteurization laws being put in place that are still keeping populations around the world healthy today.

Rosalind Elsie Franklin

Franklin’s work led to the discovery of the double-helix model of our DNA as we know it today. Following her death, her colleagues James Watson, Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins later went on to win the Nobel Prize thanks in large part to her efforts. Rosalind Franklin was also well known for her trailblazing work on X-ray diffraction.

Alice Hamilton

In academia, Alice Hamilton holds the distinction of being the first woman appointed to Harvard University’s faculty. Beyond this, Hamilton’s impact has been long lasting, as she was a pioneer in identifying environmentally hazardous materials as also having a negative effect on human health. Thanks to her, workers around the world today are (or at least should be) working in safe and regulated conditions.

Ann Holloway and Anna Mitus

Perhaps the women in medical history who have helped save more lives than any others. Their work as part of the team that developed a vaccine for measles has led to the prevention of over 118 million deaths. Working closely with John Enders on the project, Holloway also previously assisted him in developing a vaccine for polio, for which Enders won the Nobel Prize.

Mary-Claire King

Geneticist Mary-Claire King discovered the genetic marker for breast cancer when the popular thought was that the disease was caused by a random series of environmental and genetic factors. Her research led to the discovery of the exact chromosome (chromosome 17) and gene (BRCA-1) responsible for breast cancer.

Florence Nightingale

Despite belonging to a wealthy family, Florence Nightingale felt an attraction to helping others through nursing early on in her life. Once educated, she was flung into the Crimean War and put on a path towards her now legendary status. Noting dreadful hygienic conditions in medical treatment areas, Nightingale was able to reorganize operations in a way that drastically improved medical outcomes. After the war ended, she proliferated the same ideas by founding her own nursing school that then paved the way for modern nursing techniques.

Eleanor Roosevelt

It is expected of the First Lady today to spearhead sweeping health initiatives in the United States. However, this trend began with Eleanor Roosevelt. As the head of the UN Human Rights Commission in 1948 and one of the authors of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Roosevelt ensured that access to health care was considered a fundamental human right.

Margaret Sanger

Margaret Sanger is the original champion of reproductive rights. In addition to being a nurse, she spent her career as an advocate for birth control (even popularizing the term), as well as a sex educator. Mind you, this was in the 19th century, when the public’s tolerance for such ideas was low to say the least. Nevertheless, Sanger went on to open the United States’ first birth control clinic. Other organizations she founded later became what is known today as the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Rachel Schneerson

In partnership with John Robbins, Schneerson developed a vaccine for Haemophilus Influenzae type b, also known as Hib. While many people may not be familiar with this type of bacteria, they no doubt will be more familiar with the bacterial meningitis that it causes. Since the development of the vaccine Hib disease has been practically eliminated throughout developed nations, which is believed to have saved the lives of 660,000+ lives.

Rosalyn Sussman Yalow

Rosalyn Sussman Yalow developed the procedures that have allowed for screening out infectious diseases from blood donations, thereby preventing the spread of many illnesses through blood transfusions. Although she was a physicist, she won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1977.

Tu Youyou

This Chinese teacher and chemist was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2015 for her work in discovering dihydroartemisinin and atemisinin. For the layman, these are pharmaceuticals used to treat Malaria all around the world. Her work has already saved millions of people from dying of the disease.

This informative article is brought to you by Pacific Prime Insurance Brokers; providers of international health insurance plans that provide high quality medical insurance coverage virtually anywhere in the world. Contact one of our sales agents today to find out more about the plans we can provide through some of the world’s best insurance companies, and get a free plan quote.

Is your doctor covered by your insurance plan?

Spend even a short amount of time looking for health insurance in Hong Kong and you will quickly find that there is a mind-boggling number of plans available. While to many, this choice is a good thing – you can find a plan that fits your needs perfectly – it can also be overwhelming if you’re not familiar with health insurance. A common issue that comes up when looking for a plan without thoroughly understanding the policy is that you may find your doctor or facility of choice is not covered.

In Hong Kong, there are a large range of medical facilities available. You can find facilities that charge 100 HKD for a visit, or some that charge over 1,000 HKD for a simple consultation. As such, not every insurance plan will cover all of the facilities in your area. In fact, insurance companies usually offer coverage based on health care networks – a group of medical facilities that essentially agree to accept payment from the insurance company. These networks, and actually finding where your plan is accepted in Hong Kong, can be confusing. So, to help, we have written this article which looks at the three most common groups of networks.

Group 1: Public and low cost facilities
As the name suggests, plans that support these networks provide coverage only for low cost providers and public facilities. These plans are often designed to be very cost effective with lower premiums and, subsequently, lower limits and benefits. This means that if you purchase one of these plans you will only have access to lower cost facilities because the limits will only really cover the costs at these facilities

While some insurers do not cover treatment outside of your network, others will. This really depends on the insurer you choose. In fact, many will give you the flexibility to still visit doctors and hospitals outside of the network, but they will only provide coverage up to the average cost of facilities that are within your list.

So if you do purchase a budget plan, and they tell you that your doctor or hospital is covered, you still need to be careful and check the limit that they will cover up to. The plan won’t be very useful if it only covers a small amount of what your desired doctor actually charges.

Group 2: Mid to high cost facilities
These are plans that offer higher limits and a larger health care network, but may still impose coverage limits, copays, or deductibles on your treatment cost. Essentially, these plans have been designed to allow you greater flexibility in selecting your hospital, but the cost will be shared.

A copay or deductible is a part of the treatment cost that you will pay out of pocket. This amount will be agreed to before the start of the policy, and is a good way to help manage the cost of your plan while allowing you to better set and manage risk. In this way, you can still get care from the doctor or hospital that you want when you need it, without paying a high annual insurance premium.

The main downside with this type of network is that it may still limit access to the most expensive facilities in your area, especially those who are extremely specialized or serve only a small niche market. Other plans will allow you to access these facilities, but the coverage limits will be lower, which means you will be paying more if you visit them.

Group 3: Unlimited Network
Plans with unlimited networks are typically offered by international insurers, and will have high or no limits. Yes, the premiums for these plans are typically more expensive, but they do let you rest easy knowing that you can have access to the very best care that the world has to offer, because you’re not limited to treatment in public or lower tier private hospitals in Hong Kong. In fact, because these plans are international in nature, they will usually cover medical treatment anywhere in the world.

Because of their international nature, these plans are also most suitable for expats and High Net Worth individuals because they provide coverage in facilities and locations that will feel most comfortable to them – e.g., an expat’s home country. Another benefit for expats is that these type of plans allow for treatment immediately, without waiting months to re-enroll in the public healthcare system if they move to a new city or country.

How do I find out if my doctor/medical facility of choice is covered?

Regardless of the insurance plan you select or the provider you work with, there is a chance that your doctor or medical facility of choice may not be covered. There are three common ways this can be found out:

1. Look at the documentation included with the plan
All plans come with documents that explain not only what is covered, but also where you can receive medical attention. For example, if you buy a plan through Pacific Prime, we send you a Quick User Guide with information on your plan, including where you are covered.

Other plans, especially local ones, will also come with a booklet or a link to a website that lists all locations, clinics, and hospitals where your plan is accepted. When you sign up for a new plan, it is a good idea to store this information in a secure location so you have access to it when you need it.

2. Contact your main doctor and ask
If you have had your plan for a longer period of time, or are unsure whether your doctor or clinic of choice will accept your insurance plan, it could be a good idea to contact the office directly. They will likely be able to tell you right away if they are part of your provider’s network.

3. Talk to Pacific Prime
Living in Hong Kong, English may or may not be spoken to a level where you can communicate effectively with the receptionist at the clinic or hospital you have selected, so calling and asking may leave you with more questions than you started with in regards to coverage. What we recommend is contacting one of our knowledgeable health insurance professionals. Because we work closely with virtually every health insurance provider in Hong Kong, we can provide you with the details you need, and even recommend a solution if one is necessary.

Transgender Health Care and Insurance

Across international news, we’ve been hearing the word ‘transgender’ a lot more. Some states in America are passing transgender bathroom bills to make public facilities more (or less) inclusive. The Amazon series Transparent picked up its first Golden Globe, and in March even Pope Francis set aside some time to meet with Diego Neria Lejárraga, a Catholic man rejected from his local church after sex reassignment surgery.

Transgender means a person’s gender expression doesn’t match their biological sex. Diego Neria Lejárraga (who, by the way, was welcomed into the Catholic church with open arms by Pope Francis) was born a woman. People who are transgender usually say that while growing up, they never identified with their sex, often experiencing a feeling of having been born into the wrong body. When the choice becomes available, many opt to take hormones or undergo sexual reassignment surgery in order to change their sex. The problem is, any reassignment surgery can be expensive. Many who turn to insurance for coverage may find some roadblocks.

Continue Reading…

The Most Important Thing You Can Do to Prevent Diabetes

Glucose level blood test

Though diabetes is one of the most pressing issues facing world health at the moment, it isn’t nearly as scary as it looks. For the most part diabetes is entirely preventable. Just a few simple diet and lifestyle changes can reverse the disease in a matter of months. One study in the UK had patients on a strict diet of 800 calories per day, and saw most cases return to health in just a few weeks. Continue Reading…

Travel Insurance Vs. Health Insurance: What’s the Difference?

travel insurance

It’s important to be insured while away from your home country. (See our article on travel insurance for more on this). But, travel insurance and health insurance aren’t the same thing – in fact, they’re very different. Which one should you buy before starting your journey? Read on to find out more. Continue Reading…

Top 5 Remedies for a Pesky Mouth Ulcer

mouth

Mouth ulcers are a huge pain. They remove the joy of eating – arguably one of life’s greatest pleasures – and take days to heal. When it comes to the health of your mouth, an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure.

Keep in mind that skin doesn’t just break out for no reason. Your body is sending you a message. So before running to the doctor for a remedy, consider the cause.

Top causes of mouth ulcers, and how to fight them: Continue Reading…