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Health Insurance: Expat health insurance: A bitter pill to swallow, or just what the doctor ordered?

Source: Asia Insurance Review | Aug 2014

Mr Jonathan Connelly of Cigna Global Health Options says insurance brokers who are looking for suitable health insurance products for their expatriate clients must scrutinise not only the varied array of products available, but also the insurers behind them. 

It’s no secret. High-flying executives, retirees, and students alike are turning their gaze to Asia in record numbers. Whether it is for business opportunities, a change of pace for retirement, or to further their education; relocating to Asia is now more popular than ever before. 
 
Substantial market opportunity for insurance brokers
Popular locations such as Hong Kong, Thailand and Singapore have seen a huge surge in their expatriate populations. This in turn sparked a substantial market opportunity for insurance brokers to sell individual health insurance or individual private medical insurance (IPMI) in recent years.
 
As with any market opportunity, further research and shrewd decisions are essential to maximise the potential revenue options. From the perspective of the insurance broker, making the correct partnership and product choices could be the difference between unmitigated success, and uninspiring failure. 
 
Just as a consumer nowadays has to shop around and do a bit of research before deciding who to do business with; so should insurance brokers. However, making these  decisions can be difficult, especially in such a competitive marketplace with a relatively fresh product, so where do you begin?
 
Well, first off, given that the ultimate goal is to ensure the customer is happy with the product you have arranged for them, your immediate attention should turn towards product suitability, and flexibility. 
 
Products and suppliers
As you wade through the products and suppliers available, try and put yourself in the customer’s shoes. 
 
There are key questions to ask yourself. Does the supplier operate on a standard policy basis, or do they have a tiered product range? Do they have a robust enough global network of international medical professionals at their disposal?
Can they support expats all over the globe? Are medical benefits above and beyond the norm covered in the policy? Are there any particular stipulations around cancer care? Does the insurer provide any unique or unusual benefits? And are the policies fully medically underwritten? 
 
Of course, every insurer is different, but by obtaining the answers to these key questions, you will be able to establish whether the insurer’s products is something that you would feel comfortable putting your name to. You will also get a feel for whether or not the customer’s needs can fully be met by the insurer.
 
To give you something of a barometer and means of comparison, we at Cigna Global have supplied our answers to these key questions in order for you to weigh up our individual expat medical insurance.
 
What to look out for when choosing an insurer
Tiered Structure? – Cigna Global currently offers three progressive levels of cover to give the customer flexibility, both in terms of price, and product benefits.
 
Global Network? – All customers have access to the Cigna Global IPMI medical network, which comprises over 
1 million medical professionals across the globe.
 
Global Customer Reach? – Cigna Global currently has live IPMI policies in over 190 countries.
 
Normal Medical Benefits? – As standard, Cigna Global IPMI policies come with benefits such as, up to US$3,000,000 of care per period of cover, covering things like surgeon fees, consultation fees, medical fees and hospital accommodation.
 
Cancer Care? – Full cancer care is a standard benefit with all Cigna Global Policies.
 
Unique/Unusual Benefits? – Routine maternity cover comes as standard with Cigna Global’s middle and top tier levels of cover, while extras like Outpatient cover, Medical Evacuation, Vision & Dental, and US Cover are available as optional extras.
 
Fully Medically Underwritten? – All Cigna Global policies are fully medically underwritten with a view to providing full clarity and transparency on the implications of medical conditions.
 
Communication and infrastructure support
That takes care of the customer’s concerns; now what about yours?
 
An insurer could have the best expat health insurance product in the world, but what good is it to you, the broker, if the communication and infrastructure behind it all is flimsy, overly complicated, or convoluted?
 
While the products available from insurers are undoubtedly of paramount importance, it is worth remembering that the support and communications processes are what will be focussed on in the event of a query, claim, or renewal. 
As with the product, there are key questions the brokers should be asking in order to deduce which expatriate health insurance suppliers will be reliable and beneficial for you to work with. Aside from the obvious things like commission rates, you may want to consider the following things: What support is in place for you, the broker? Is there a dedicated team or representative for you to contact? Are there any language restrictions? Are there any time restrictions? Is support available online in any capacity?
 
Again, to serve as a means of comparison for you, we at Cigna Global have provided our answers to these key questions:-
 
Overall Support Network? – A business development manager is in place in all regions to provide high level support and communications to brokers. Everything from marketing requests, to technical issues can be tackled via the Cigna Global broker support infrastructure.
 
Dedicated Team or Rep? – A dedicated team of broker support agents are in place to deal with the more day to day queries and issues by telephone.
 
Language Restrictions? – Cigna Global currently supports brokers and customers in English, French, Spanish, Dutch and German.
 
Online Support? – A bespoke online broker portal is available for all Cigna Global partners to access, with support also available via email, and a pioneering broker quote pricing tool.
 
Time Restrictions? – Our support infrastructure is available 24/7.
 
Ask the right questions and get the right answers
There are no right and wrong answers, only you will know how you prefer to do business. If you can obtain what you deem to be positive answers to all of the aforementioned questions, then there is a good chance you will have found an insurance provider and expat health insurance policy that is ideal for you, and your customers. 
 
With expats becoming a bigger chunk of the population in major countries all across the world, particularly in Asia, expat health insurance is fast becoming a key profitable market for brokers. If you have yet to add individual private medical insurance for expats to your insurance repertoire, then there is no better time to do so. 
 
Even if you are an old hand in this market, it is always worth making sure you are asking the right questions to get the right suppliers and products, for you, and your next lucrative customer.
 
Mr Jonathan Connelly is Marketing & Communications Executive at Cigna Global Health Options.
 
For more information on Cigna’s IPMI products, or to become a partner, visit www.cignaglobal.com/register
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