Why iPMI prices are so high – and what policyholders can do about it

It’s not exactly news that the prices companies and individuals have been paying for international private medical insurance have been soaring over the last few years, but the Health Insurance Group, a UK-based iPMI broker, says there are ways policyholders can fight back.

According to the HIG, which is a part of the AXA insurance group, a 10% to 15% increase in the cost of iPMI, year-on-year, has become “normal” and is now to be expected – and many companies have recently been faced with even greater increases, which, it notes, have not always been foreseen.

These, it notes, have typically been driven by the insurers’ costs of complying with increased regulation; greater demand for higher-quality care from insurers; and simply the rising cost of providing care in some locations.

Policyholders are also looking for access to the latest advanced medical technology, HIG points out. at the same time, “in some locations, there is a greater propensity for hospitals to offer leading-edge or experimental treatments that are much more expensive” than traditional treatments”, with Singapore and Hong Kong in particular being noted for jurisdictions where these types of treatments are often to be on offer.

Three iPMI cost-controlling tips

Three ways the HIG experts say  iPMI cost inflation may be controlled without affecting the quality of care:

1. Check to see whether it is cheaper to have a single policy to cover all locations, or local cover especially for high-cost countries

For companies with employees in numerous international locations, “it may be cheaper to have a single iPMI policy to cover  staff [in all the company’s] locations, or have local cover just for some specific countries,” HIG says.

It advises employers to seek advice from a specialist broker who would be best able to advise on the most appropriate way to do this while at the same time ensuring the most suitable level of international cover for their company’s specific needs.

2. Choose providers that have access to medical facilities that offer the best value 

Says HIG: “Some providers are able to access good quality medical care at facilities that are more competitively priced” than others.

“Employers should look to compare what is available, to ensure they are getting good value as well as high quality care.”

3. Review what one’s iPMI policies include – and don’t include 

While it might go without saying, HIG suggests those buying iPMI take the time to review what is included or excluded in the policy they’re considering, and to what extent what it offers relates to the likely needs of the overseas staff being insured.

For example, it notes, childbirth coverage “can be very costly to include, and may not be relevant in all circumstances”.

As reported here last year,  the question about whether to pay extra for certain specialist coverage that doesn’t come with a particular iPMI package is one that is increasingly being asked by company benefits executives, financial advisers, and expatriates themselves, as the cost of private health insurance continues to rise in many markets.

As that reported noted, the question could soon become more than an academic one for British companies with staff in Europe, as well as for those staffers themselves, who have, until now, been able to take advantage of the EU’s reciprocal healthcare arrangement, upon presentation of a so-called European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

This is because once the UK leaves the European Union, unless reciprocal arrangements are negotiated, British expats will need to provide for their own healthcare needs, the way they do now everywhere else in the world.

 

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