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Increased Options for Affordable High End Coverage Available After Release of Cigna's New Advance Plan.

Posted on Jan 28, 2013 by Sergio Ulloa ()

Coverage from high end insurers, such as Cigna, is often at the top of the premium pile as benefits are very rich and the levels of servicing offered are of the highest standard. The "Global Health Options" (GHO) released by Cigna roughly one year ago, was designed as such a plan. However, to make their plans more accessible to clients who might not be able to afford the premiums needed to purchase high end plans, Cigna have launched a new product, the GHO "Advance". With reduced benefits, this plan has resulted in a much more attractive premium while still offering the high levels of service traditionally associated with Cigna 

Cigna launched the GHO plan, the first individual plan offered by Cigna for international expatriates, to compete with other high end providers of individual plans such as Bupa International and Allianz Worldwide Care. The plans were specifically aimed at high end clients and offered extremely comprehensive benefits backed up with top servicing levels already implanted on an international platform by their corporate international plan launched in the 1970's. The plan was designed to match the current requirements for high net worth expatriates needing individual coverage, including high levels of maternity benefits and no limitations on chronic condition cover.

The plan has been received well in the market, and Cigna in China (with their joint venture Partner CMC) recently surpassed the milestone of 1 million policies sold. However, to make their plans more attractive to expatriates with smaller budgets, Cigna created the "GHO Advance" plan. With limited benefits and extra co-payment options resulting in premiums that average 30% cheaper than the normal GHO plan, the Advance option has greatly widened the scope of prospective clients, showing Cigna's commitment to the Individual Private Medical Insurance (IPMI) market.

Essentially, the Advance plan has the same modular structure as the original GHO plan and covers all the same types of treatment that the original GHO plan does. The actual benefits covered are almost exactly the same, but financial limits have been placed on these benefits so as to help lower overall premium costs.

However, one important difference to note between the two plans is the complete removal of routine maternity benefits for the Advance plan. This decision has undoubtedly had the most noticeable and dramatic effect on premium reductions, as with such high costs associated with international facilities for maternity treatment, removing this option significantly helps to reduce premiums. Of course there is a downside to removing such an important benefit, so to ensure that their clients are not at risk of the even higher costs for complicated maternity procedures, Cigna's benefit for complicated maternity is still part of the Advance plan but with a reduction of the limit from $28K to $14K. Cigna has also retained the benefit newborn care, with a reduction from $156K to $75K, as well as keeping the benefit for congenital conditions with a reduction in benefit from $39K to $20. This shows Cigna's dedication to their clients by helping to ensure they are still protected from worst case scenarios.

The Maternity option was the only benefit completely removed. However, many benefits that were previously covered without specific limits have had financial caps, or "sub-limits", put into place to help contain their costs. The biggest contributor in this area was the reduction of the overall maximum limit of the "International Medical Insurance" core module (covering inpatient benefits) from 3M to 1.5M US dollars. Although this limited amount is still on par with other plans in the market, in many cases the limit remains higher than those offered by Cigna's competitors. Within this, there were further sub-limits applied to the following specific benefits:

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