Analysis: International PMI - going the extra mile

The little extras on offer that can make the difference between expat success or failure

While comprehensive medical insurance is of course essential to any overseas posting, the success or failure of an expat placement can depend on a number of other social, emotional and cultural factors. Harvey Jones looks at what tools and support international private medical insurance providers can offer to make the process as smooth as possible.

Healthcare is not the only issue to consider when moving abroad. Setting up a good international private medical insurance (iPMI) policy is a key part of becoming an expat, but it is not everything.

Managing tax and money, finding somewhere to live and choosing a school for the kids is always tricky, but it is doubly difficult when you are split between two different countries and cultures.

The success or failure of an overseas placement can depend on a string of social, emotional and cultural factors. Insurers know this, and they are working to offer ever greater support. You could call it iPMI TLC.

A growing number now help clients deal with the everyday challenges of their new expat life, offering advice on everything from local driving rules to how to look after your pets.

In December, Now Health International launched a new downloadable how-to guide aimed at newbie relocators, called The New Expat.

Insurers can do a lot to demystify the process of moving abroad, says Now Health ecommerce director Alison Massey.

“We have a huge amount of information about different cultures and nuances, and how to make a success of living in another country,” she says. “It makes sense to share this with our customers.”

Now Health has built a community website that gives both existing and prospective customers “non-sales focused information” on every aspect of moving abroad.

“We also offer a 24-hour ‘Health at Hand’ service allowing policyholders to contact medically-qualified people to discuss family issues, care and counselling, healthy living, travel, pills and prescriptions, and male and female health. This is available to all our customers, regardless of the level of cover,” she says.

But will customers use it?

“Like any peripheral service, it depends on the customer,” Massey continues. “Some will make great use of these services, others won’t. Our job isn’t just to protect the core healthcare needs of our customers, but to share our knowledge with those who want to take advantage of it.”


New expats face a series of challenges integrating into their new culture, says Andrew Coombs, managing director at AXA PPP International.

“They need to know about safety, vaccinations, health trends, and how local health systems work,” Coombs explains. “They need to know where to go if they have health problems, when they have to pay and how much treatment may cost. And they need to access medical practitioners who speak their mother tongue.”

AXA PPP International, which underwrites Now Health’s plans, also provides the Health at Hand service as standard to its clients. Its MyGlobe service supplies information about their new country, including visa and vaccination requirements, transport and security information, emergency contact numbers, and medical providers.

AXA PPP gives members access to a helpline supplying details of local doctors, dentists and opticians, as well as an interpretation telephone helpline, which customers can ring for help bridging any language gap with their doctor.

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