Analysis: iPMI - more than just paying the claim

iPMI providers offer a range of extras on top of simply paying claims, as Harvey Jones reports

It is the little things in life that make all the difference, the saying goes, and international private medical insurance (iPMI) providers have taken it to heart.

They increasingly understand that international PMI is not just about paying the claim. If that is all insurers did, healthy clients would start wondering why they were shelling out so much for so little. It might make them tetchy at renewal.

Insurers recognise the danger and are looking to give their members that little bit extra. In practice, this means lavishing them with a growing suite of policy "extras".

First, however, insurers need to get the essentials right, says David Pryor, senior executive director at MediCare International.

"Most of all, clients want deep and broad benefit schedules, an efficient claims service, high quality overseas support and rapid reimbursement of medical bills," he says.

They also want ease of purchase, rapid multi-currency settlements, 24-hour multilingual medical assistance, and personal customer service.

"Both individual and corporate clients are focused on cost, particularly in the current climate," Pryor says.

Once the essentials are covered, insurers can build customer loyalty by going the extra mile.

"We offer child vaccinations, comprehensive maternity and post-maternity cover for both straightforward and complicated pregnancies, comprehensive treatment of chronic care," he continues. "We also have a wellbeing option, for families who want to take a preventative approach to healthcare."


But it is the internet that allows insurers to cement that loyalty.

"We offer general information on diseases and country profiles, what to prepare for, inoculations, and practical hints and tips," Pryor says. "Our feedback tells us this is consistently one of the most used parts of our site."

Muriel MacCullum, marketing director at Bupa International, says it is proud of its free online factsheets, health risk assessments, health calculators, and fitness apps for mobile devices.

"Our expat guides, which cover vaccinations, staying well and local tax, education and culture, are viewed thousands of times a year," she says. "They are some of the most popular pages on our site."

Bupa’s MembersWorld online service allows members to find policy details, submit and track claims, apply for a free second medical opinion and put questions to its 24-hour live webchat service.

Its Health Dialog Health Crossroads online service has multimedia tools to help members manage their chronic conditions more effectively.

"Our online facilities finder helps customers identify the best quality hospitals and consultants," she says.

A good international medical insurer should help its members live longer, healthier, happier lives, MacCullum says. “The number of customers who haven’t claimed but still tell us their policy is value for money has dramatically increased. Expats who use our MembersWorld website and pre-authorisation services are significantly more satisfied than those who don't,” MacCullum says.

The insurer also benefits, by building a longer, healthier and happier relationship with its client.

And so do employers. A healthy expat is a more productive expat, says John Kaye, head of sales and client management at Cigna Global Health Benefits.

"Any support we can give to keep them healthy, or address emerging problems, is critical for employee and employer," Kaye says.

Cigna does this partly through its web portal, which offers health assessments, condition and disease management programmes, remote medical second opinion services, and a medical translation tool.

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