International medical insurance costs are rising – here’s what employers can do about it.

Unfortunately, as the business world has expanded, often into higher risk areas, employers have seen the cost of international medical cover increase.

Many employers are now reporting significant increases in the premiums that they pay for international private medical insurance (IPMI).  It is normal to expect a 10-15% increase in the cost of insurance year on year, but in some instances, this rise has been as much as 50 per cent in some cases. 

There are a number of factors that are forcing the price of premiums up so steeply including increased regulation, greater demand for quality care and the rising cost of care in some locations. 

The demand for good quality private care is rising, as individuals look for greater choice in how and where they are treated. People are also looking for access to the latest advanced medical technology.

In some locations, there is a greater propensity for hospitals to offer leading-edge or experimental treatments that are much more expensive. Singapore and Hong Kong have been acknowledged as countries where insurance costs are higher because of their willingness to offer these types of treatments.

We spoke to Sarah Dennis, head of international for The Health Insurance Group, to see if there is anything employers can do to reduce or mitigate the increases:

Sarah explains:

“It is essential that employers discuss the best way to control costs. With expert advice, premiums may be reduced through centralised or local policies, changing what is included in the policy or seeking providers who can offer access to less expensive medical services.”

 Sarah says there are steps employers can take to control the cost of IPMI

Given the varied costs, availability of medical infrastructure and changes to regulation in different countries it is critical that employers get expert advice when reviewing their international insurance. 

Three areas to consider are: 

  1. Weigh up the options – is it cheaper to have a single policy to cover all locations, or to obtain local cover specifically for high-cost countries? Look at where different staff travel to and see if savings can be made by using different policies for different travel locations. 
  2. Some providers are able to access good quality medical care at facilities that are more competitively priced. Employers should look to compare what is available under each policy to ensure they are getting good value as well as high quality care.  
  3. Employers should also review what they can include and exclude within the policy and how that relates to the likely needs of the overseas staff being insured. For example, childbirth can be very costly to include, but may not be relevant in some circumstances.

Ultimately, Sarah believes a good relationship with your broker is the best way to maintain essential cover without breaking the bank.  She concludes:

“Helping control the costs of IPMI cover is a core part of the value that brokers should be delivering. Companies need to draw on the international expertise of their broker to find the most cost-efficient policies whilst still providing the appropriate level of cover for staff.”