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International PMI – a sector that continues to fly

As many as a quarter of British people living overseas have no international private medical insurance (iPMI) policy because they simply don’t think they need it, a survey by Now Health International has shown. Some respondents said, optimistically, that it was unnecessary as they were in good health, while others said they believed they would be covered by the local health care system. But for a large chunk – some 29% – the decision was taken on the basis of cost, as they considered iPMI to be too expensive for them. For others, a lack of cover was a risk they were prepared to take – 16% said that they planned to cover their own bills were they to fall ill.

Martin Garcia, chief executive of Now Health International, said: “International health insurance isn’t just about benefit limits and claims processes – its unseen value comes into play when expats want to seek treatment either in the centre of medical excellence for their medical condition or back in their home country. Specialist providers like Now Health have the expertise to access medical facilities anywhere in the world, often without our customers having to pay any costs, which can be a welcome relief when families are at their most vulnerable.”

It is not just expats who are affected by ill health or complications overseas, of course. Unfortunately, for some people travelling abroad for work or leisure, unforeseen circumstances can have a devastating financial impact. Jennifer Huculak and her husband travelled from their home in Canada to Hawaii for a pre-baby holiday, three months before their baby was due. Her waters broke while they were on holiday, and she had to be airlifted to hospital where she was kept as an inpatient before the baby was born.

They had travel insurance in place, but as she had been treated during the six months before travel for complications with her pregnancy, the claim was denied – leaving the family with almost $1m in medical bills.

There may still be some way to go in getting the message across to expats that their health could cost them dear if they are not prepared. Nonetheless, the iPMI sector is doing well –and has the potential to do even better.

Independent analysts McGrigor Group said that the iPMI market has trebled over the past decade and was worth some US$9.8bn at the end of 2013 – a figure that is set to grow. James McGrigor, CEO of McGrigor Group, said in Health Insurance & Protection Daily: “Once the sole preserve of Western corporate expatriates, iPMI’s current growth is now driven by returnees and aspirational local professionals from the Middle East, Asia and Latin America, demanding higher quality and borderless healthcare solutions.”

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